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Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton 
With an Introduction by Mimi Hellman 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 
Yale University Press, New Haven and London 

This catalogue has been adapted from the exhibition "Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and 
Furniture in the 18th Century" held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 
from April 29 to September 6, 2004. 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in 
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, 
or any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing 
from the publishers. 

John P. O'Neill, Editor in Chief 
Gwen Roginsky, Associate General Manager of Publications 
Joan Holt/ Editor 
Paula Torres, Production Manager 
Matsumoto Incorporated NY, Designers 

Photography by Joseph Coscia Jr. and Oi-Cheong Lee of the Photograph Studio, 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Color separations by Professional Graphics Inc., Rockford, Illinois 
Printed and bound by Mondadori Printing S.p.A., Verona, Italy 

Front cover: Detail of The Masked Beauty (see pp. 77-81) 
Back cover: Detail of The Shop (see p. 122) 
Frontispiece: The Connoisseur, photographed at the entrance of 
The Wrightsman Galleries (see p. 117) 

Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress. 

The exhibition and this catalogue are made possible by 

Additional support has been provided by 


Published by Trie Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 

Copyright © 2006 by The Metropolitan Museum of Ait, New York 

ISBN: 1-58839-147-7 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) 
ISBN: 0-300-10714-5 (Yale University Press) 


Sponsor's Statement 

Philippe de Montebello 


Interior Motives: Seduction by Decoration in Eighteenth-Century France 

Mimi Hellman 

The Portrait: An Unexpected Entanglement 


The Levee: The Assiduous Admirer 

The Music Lesson: A Window of Opportunity 


The Withdrawing Room: A Helpful Valet 


The Masked Beauty 

The Favorite 

The Broken Vase: A Consoling Merchant 


The Card Game: Cheating at Cavagnole 

The Late Supper: The Memento 



Select Bibliography 


mk tea 



Sponsor's Statement 

Inspired by Jean-Frangois de Bastide's erotic novella La Petite Maison, The Costume Institute's 
Dangerous Liaisons catalogue explores the idea that in eighteenth-century France fashion and 
furniture were intended to attract, arouse, and, ultimately, to seduce. It is fitting that Asprey, with a 
rich artistic heritage, supports a catalogue lauding a period that, in terms of the applied arts, has 
come to be seen as the apex of taste and refinement. 

Founded in 1781, Asprey epitomizes aesthetic sophistication and exacting craftsmanship 
through its long tradition in china, silver, jewelry, glassware, and leatherwork. The premier maker of 
luxury goods in England, Asprey's royal patronage has included Queen Victoria and King Edward 
VII. Today, Asprey's reputation for artistic vision is upheld and advanced through the modem and 
innovative approach of its designers. 

Asprey is proud to support this remarkable catalogue generated by The Metropolitan Museum of 
Art's Costume Institute. 


In 1963 figures dressed in the attire of Louis XV and Louis XVI were placed in informal vignettes 
throughout the Museum's French period rooms, The Wrightsman Galleries. Since then, the rooms 
have benefited from a series of new acquisitions and gifts, many with exceptionally distinguished 
provenances, and all displaying the most refined artistry of the period. After more than four decades, 
"Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century" restated the strategy of that earlier 
installation, now greatly enhanced by the many additions to the rooms. 

For the Metropolitan, the collaboration of our departments of European Sculpture and 
Decorative Arts and The Costume Institute is an important reflection of the collegiality and diversity 
of our curatorial expertise and the breadth of our holdings. This Museum is especially well- 
positioned for such interdepartmental "synergies/' However, the narratives that linked the rooms in 
"Dangerous Liaisons" were a kind of theater, and unusual for an art museum. More typically, 
artworks are displayed with the understanding that their aesthetic merit and the virtuosity of their 
creators are better conveyed when they are separated spatially to underscore their uniqueness. 
Unlike natural-history dioramas or historical-society tableaux, presentation of works in an art 
museum is generally without recreation of their original social and cultural contexts. 

Perhaps no one was more surprised than the contributing curators to see how the exceptional 
nature of their objects was enriched by such juxtapositions. To view the elaborately attired figures in 
the rooms was to understand the just proportions of the spaces. Such settings also served to link and 9 
unify the rarefied opulence of the furniture and costumes. Moreover, through these vignettes 
eighteenth-century conceits and social behavior were made more accessible and human because of 
the intimacy implicit in the playful narratives. 

"Dangerous Liaisons" would not have been possible without its unparalleled settings and the 
masterworks assembled there by Jayne Wrightsman, whose generosity, knowledge, and insight have 
informed the evolution of the Museum's collection of eighteenth -century furniture and decorative 
arts. Most of the fine examples of eighteenth-century dress came from the superlative holdings of 
The Costume Institute, which were enhanced by rare works from the collections of Lillian Williams 
and the Kyoto Costume Institute. 

"Dangerous Liaisons" was organized by Harold Koda, curator in charge of The Costume 
Institute, and Andrew Bolton, associate curator, who, along with Mimi Hellman, assistant professor 
of art history at Skidmore College, are the authors of this book adapted from the exhibition. 
Beautifully conceptualized and staged by Patrick Kinmonth and expertly photographed by Joseph 
Coscia Jr. and Oi-Cheong Lee, the vignettes that follow will certainly transport the reader back to 
this "age of allurement." 

We are extremely grateful to Asprey for their generous support of both the exhibition and this 
book. We would also like to thank Conde Nast for their additional support of both projects. 

Philippe de Montebello 
Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 


The exhibition "Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century/' from which this 
book is derived, is the second instance of costume presented in The Wrightsman Galleries. While the 
first, "Costumes: Period Rooms Re-occupied in Style" (1963), also featured notable examples of 
eighteenth-century dress, they were presented in tableaux of neutral, sparely articulated narratives. 
Emphasis was placed on the clothing rather than the furniture and architectural components. For 
"Dangerous Liaisons," however, the curators elected a different approach, one intended to establish 
a more dynamic occupation of the rooms. Through a series of dramatic vignettes, equal prominence 
has been given to the apparel and the applied arts. 

Philippe de Montebello has noted that the Metropolitan's period rooms, including The 
Wrightsman Galleries, "were installed principally ... to display suites of furniture selected from the 
Museum's holdings and combined in the setting to express a particular style, rather than to reinvent 
the original room." With similar intentions, the curators of "Dangerous Liaisons," along with the 
exhibition's creative director, Patrick Kinmonth, staged tableaux that effected a stylistic relationship 
between fashion and furniture in the eighteenth century. The scenes allude to the carefully cultivated 
appearances and accomplished behaviors in codified rituals that characterized the social activities of 
the French nobility of the period. To further emphasize the artifice and theatrical nature of the 
scenarios, Kinmonth introduced footlights to the existing diffuse daylight and candlelight effects of 
the rooms, resulting in an "up-lit" effect of a Watteau painting. For all its dramatic invention, n 
however, the premise of the exhibition was to establish an apparent discourse between objects. In 
every room furniture remained as originally placed or was only slightly shifted to accommodate the 
mannequins. The actions of the figures were, therefore, directly predicated on concepts originating 
from the rooms and the decor. 

Eighteenth-century prints, drawings, and paintings documenting the insouciant life of the 
ancien regime elite served as inspiration for the vignettes, as did popular libertine literature of the 
period. In particular, the curators were reliant on two works for establishing the exhibition's 
narrative parameters. The first, Jean-Frangois Bastide's novella La Petite Maison (1758), linked 
architecture and decorative arts to stratagems of seduction, while the second, Jean-Michel Moreau le 
Jeune's compilation of engravings, Monument du costume (1789), described aristocratic diversions 
with idealized "day-in-the-life-of" detail. 

La Petite Maison is, as the architectural scholar Rodolphe El-Khoury has written, "an intersection 
of the libertine novel and critical commentary on architecture." For Bastide's hero, the Marquis de 
Tremicour, a worldly counterpart to the better-known Vicomte de Valmont in Choderlos de Laclos's 
Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782), the sumptuous aesthetic of eighteenth-century French design is less 
simple scenography than an active accomplice in his amorous pursuits. For example, a particularly 
challenging interlude for Melite, the elusive subject of the marquis's attentions, occurs when she is 
led into an ingeniously decorated round salon, similar spatially to the Museum's own Bordeaux 
Room (p. 99). Anthropomorphism insinuates itself when the salon emerges as a third party, and, in 
effect, as a seducer even more compelling than (though in the service of) the ardent marquis. In the 
world of de Tremicour and Melite, erotic games are played out by extravagantly dressed elites in 
homes of luxurious refinement. 

While the dress of the two protagonists is not described, de Tremicour would have worn a 

sleekly fitted silk suit embellished with lace jabot and cuffs, while Melite was probably attired in a 
robe a lafrangaise of the type seen on page 49. Her natural silhouette would have been exaggerated 
by her corset and panniers, the one constraining her body as the other amplified its effect. The finely 
embellished, elaborately brocaded silk comprising her dress would have been arranged to display 
the finer points of her exposed nape and bust. At the same time, it would have highlighted the 
grace with which she could negotiate its sheer volume, whether her full skirt through a doorway 
and around a delicately poised table or her lace cuffs, or engageantes, above a fragile tea service or a 
pot of rouge. 

As Mimi Hellman describes in her essay, this interaction of the body with objects was a carefully 
choreographed, challenging exercise with important implications of status and social refinement. 
While in some instances in "Dangerous Liaisons" specific pieces of furniture inspired the telling 
actions of the figures, in others the rooms and their history precipitated the narratives. Because of 
the aesthetic unity that characterized the various arts presented, whether in terms of styles, motives, 
or technical accomplishments, fortuitous correspondences transpired. The transformative silhouette 
of an informal gown juxtaposed with a mechanical table, or the inflated hairstyle of a woman at her 
dressing table in a room with Jacob chairs with balloon finials, associate disparate phenomena into 
a legible gestalt. 

In the exhibition Kinmonth referenced dressmaker's forms when he covered the mannequins 
with fine linen, an act that also recalled the interior finishes of eighteenth-century corsets. While 
clearly dummies, the figures were posed in naturalistic postures derived from period paintings and 
prints. The positioning of mannequins in attitudes of the eighteenth centuiy resulted in a convincing 
representation of elite decorum. For example, the female figures were not bent at the waist because 
a woman fitted with a corset and center-front busk was precluded from doing so. Instead, the 
eighteenth-century femme du monde was compelled to lean over with her back rigid, bending at her 
hips as in the case of the woman hovering over the prostrate figure in the Varengeville Room (p. 65). 
The wigs, made from hand-knotted human hair and designed by Campbell Young and his colleague, 
Chris Redman, introduced a particularly convincing visual effect, especially when they were 
powdered. A subtle detail seen in portraits of the period emerged more vividly when the powder 
drifted down to the roots and scalp, creating a delicate sfumato, lighter along the crown and hairline, 
and darker at the sides and back of the head. The exhibition's powdered coiffures balanced the lush 
luster and volume of the costumes of the day. With such attention to detail, the allure of the 
eighteenth-century woman was poetically evoked. 

La Petite Maison concludes with Melite emotionally overcome by the beauty of the decor in de 
Tremicour's house. While there was always the possibility that the placement of mannequins in the 
luxurious hauteur of The Wrightsman Galleries might fail to communicate the highly evolved 
sensibilities of the period, any doubts as to the validity of the project vanished when the figures 
began to be positioned in the rooms. With their opulent costumes, the mannequins humanized the 
scale of even the grandest space, and the narratives engaged the forms and design details of 
the Metropolitan's formidable masterworks of furniture and decorative arts with a compelling 
aesthetic unity. As demonstrated in the exhibition and in this lavishly illustrated publication, the 
exquisite art de vivre of eighteenth-century France, expressed through the dangerously seductive 
liaison of fashion and furniture, still has the power to please the mind and overwhelm the senses. 



Interior Motives: Seduction by Decoration 
in Eighteenth-Century France 

Mimi Hellman 

"I was very curious: it was no longer Madame de T that I desired, but her cabinet/' 15 

Dominique Vivant Denon, No Tomorrow (1777) 

Imagine a seduction in which the principal object of desire is not the body of the beloved, but rather 
the room in which the play of invitation and capitulation unfolds. Imagine a seduction in which 
every move is shaped by a piece of furniture. Imagine a seduction in which pleasure is offered and 
denied without the removal of single piece of clothing. Welcome to the decorated interior in 
eighteenth-century France. 

The vignettes of Dangerous Liaisons vividly suggest some of the ways in which the design of 
clothing and interiors worked together to create elegant environments for intimate encounters. The 
narratives of seduction focus largely on interactions between people inspired by libertine imagery 
and literature: the flirtatious gesture, the stolen caress, the gorgeously attired bodies displayed and 
enjoyed with varying degrees of propriety. These scenarios offer a provocative point of departure for 
thinking about the interpersonal dynamics of the decorated interior. While it is difficult to assess the 
degree to which libertine sensibilities corresponded with actual practice, many social encounters 
were indeed conceived as rarefied rituals of seduction. Moreover, the intimacies of the interior 
played out not only between people but also between people and the furniture that surrounded 
them. Objects such as chairs and tables were active protagonists in an elaborate game of cultivated 
sociability. Through their luxurious materials and strategically designed forms, they facilitated 
a process of alluring self-presentation and elegant communication that was central to the formation 
of elite identities. At the same time, however, the effective use of furniture presented certain 
challenges that, if not met gracefully, could seriously compromise a person's social seductiveness. In 
other words the dangerous liaisons of the eighteenth-century interior involved not only tantalizing 
bodies but also tantalizing objects. Welcome to a world where, as suggested by the protagonist of 

Dominique Vivant Denon's novella No Tomorrow, a woman's private study (cabinet) could be even 
more seductive than the woman herself. 

Elite social interaction in eighteenth-century France took place in densely decorated interiors 
filled with diverse objects crafted from a wide range of materials. Walls were covered with carved 
paneling, textiles, and mirrors, while floors gleamed with polished parquet. Furnishings included 
silk-upholstered chairs with carved and gilded frames, tables and cabinets veneered with exotic 
wood and lacquer, and a multitude of fittings from gilded-bronze light fixtures to brilliantly glazed 
porcelain vases. Many of these objects were highly specialized, designed to be used for leisure 
activities such as conversation, reading, letter writing, handwork, dining, and game playing. Such 
pursuits might seem trivial from a modern perspective, but for eighteenth-century elites they were 
important means of self-definition. Physical labor and preoccupations with economic gain and 
professional achievement were considered incompatible with a noble heritage and high status. 
Therefore the most powerful way to demonstrate social superiority was to pursue a life of leisure, 
luxury, and refinement. To be elite was to turn everyday existence into an elaborate rejection 
of physical effort and base human needs. To be elite was to transform oneself into a living work of 
art. And the decorated interior was the principal arena in which this performance of privilege 
was staged. 

The material abundance and social uses of the interior are exemplified by images such as Jean- 
Frangois de Troy's The Reading from Moliere of about 1728 and an engraving of 1781 after Jean-Michel 
Moreau le Jeune. In de Troy's painting (p. 14), a convivial group of men and women gathers near a 
fireplace, sheltered from drafts by a folding screen. A man seated at the center looks up from a book 
he has been reading aloud and is caught up in a web of glances — both reciprocated and 
unreciprocated — that binds the group together. Two of the women (one standing at center and 
another seated to the right) seem to look directly out of the picture as if acknowledging our presence 
and inviting us to join the party. 

Contributing significantly to the scene's sense of intimacy are the design and position of the 
chairs. With their low, wide seats, tilted backs, and generously stuffed upholstery, they seem to invite 
hours of relaxed comfort. Their arrangement in a tight cluster brings the elegantly dressed bodies 
close together, the women's skirts overlapping in a sumptuous heap of fabrics. These chairs 
exemplify the specialization that characterized eighteenth-century French furniture. They are ideally 
suited to an informal gathering for reading and conversation but would not have been used for other 
kinds of activities. A hairdressing chair, for example, would have a low back to facilitate the process 
of combing, curling, and powdering, and its seat might revolve for further convenience. A writing 
chair would have minimal arms, to allow it to be drawn close to a desk, and its supports would be 
positioned beneath the center of each side of the seat, rather than at the corners, to accommodate 
the weight and posture of someone leaning forward with legs apart. 

The engraving after Moreau le Jeune (p. 18) further suggests this fascination with customized 
design and its contribution to social intimacy. Two couples are engaging in a flirtatious supper party. 
One woman pours wine for an eager-looking man, while the other teases her companion by holding 
a piece of paper — perhaps a love letter from another admirer — just beyond his grasp. Like the 
women in de Troy's painting, she includes the viewer in the fun by looking out of the picture with a 
coy, sidelong gaze. 

Here, too, the furniture and other objects do much to facilitate personal encounters. The dining 
table is just large enough for four, and the trim lines of the chairs allow bodies to lean close together. 

The dining table, draped in linen and strewn with a companionable clutter of plates and utensils, is 
flanked by two smaller tables that are much more specialized in design. Compact, easily moved, and 
fitted with shelves and compartments, they are meant to keep items such as wine bottles, dishes, 
and napkins within easy reach. Dining practice developed many refinements during the eighteenth 
century, including serving wine from chilled containers and providing each diner with his or her own 
wineglass, which was rinsed between refills. The side tables in the engraving include wells for 
cooling bottles, and the one in the foreground holds a scallop-rimmed basin in which upturned 
stemware awaits the next round of drinks. By making it possible for diners to serve themselves, these 
design features reduced the need for servants and allowed meals to become far more private and 
informal affairs. The image vividly suggests the erotic turn that this social intimacy could take as 
diners attended to each other's appetites, gastronomic and otherwise. 

The eighteenth-century interior, then, was a highly articulated landscape in which numerous, 
diverse objects enhanced the pursuit of leisure. This design sophistication was widely regarded as 
uniquely modern and uniquely French, a sensitivity to personal comfort and convenience that 
existed in no other place or time. And, indeed, many eighteenth-century objects do seem to be 
tremendously accommodating, easy and pleasurable to use and perfectly tailored to dynamics of 
elite social life. There was, however, a catch. To yield up an enjoyable experience, furniture had to be 
used properly, and this was not as obvious or simple as it might at first seem. To understand how 
elite individuals inhabited their elegant environments, we need to know more about how they were 
expected to conduct themselves and what it took to achieve an ideal social persona. The delights of 
the interior came at a price — one that only a privileged few could pay. 17 

The central premise of elite social behavior was that the body was an instrument of pleasure. 
Interaction was conceived as a process of seduction — not necessarily a pursuit of overt sexual 
expression, but rather an exchange in which individuals sought to engage and delight each other 
with an artfully conducted repertoire of pleasing poses, gestures, expressions, and conversation. The 
goal was to use physical appearance and communication skills to gratify the aesthetic and social 
sensibilities of others, while at the same time demonstrating reciprocal pleasure in response to 
similar efforts on their part. This was no easy matter — social seduction was a delicate balancing act 
fraught with paradox. It meant avoiding the equally displeasing extremes of aggression and 
impassivity. It meant being well groomed but not self-absorbed. It meant pleasing others, and being 
pleased by them, without seeming to be pleased with oneself. Moreover, this cycle of mutual 
pleasing was to be conducted in a way that seemed utterly natural, as if agreeable manners were 
innate rather than learned. Conduct that betrayed effort and awkwardness suggested a worker's lack 
of cultivation or the laboriously acquired pretentions of a newly wealthy bourgeois. The best way to 
suggest long-standing social privilege was to seduce, and be seduced, with an acute self- awareness 
masquerading as selfless ease. 

The mandate of pleasure governed every aspect of elite behavior. For example, the socially adept 
individual demonstrated a bearing that was upright but not stiff, self-contained yet relaxed. Physical 
motion should be smooth and flowing, neither too rapid nor too slow. Gestures should be expressive 
without being too broad, abrupt, or agitated. Similarly, facial expression should be animated without 
succumbing to such offenses as grinning, frowning, or staring. Any semblance of confrontation 
should be avoided: one should never stand directly in front of another person, grasp their sleeve to 
get attention, or stamp a foot for emphasis. In conversation, speech should be modulated in tone, 
pedantic subjects avoided, and personal interests forsaken for those of others. It was considered 

rude to make long speeches or blunt statements, and preferable to communicate through the more 
subtle, indirect tactics of euphemism and qualification. 

But it was not enough to observe the same general code of conduct in all social situations. Every 
set of circumstances demanded behavior that was tailored to the gender, rank, and marital status 
of one's interlocutor and the location, time of day, and occasion of the encounter. For example, 
a young, unmarried count would approach a widowed duchess at a formal ball in a way that was 
very different from his overtures to an unmarried woman during a garden stroll or his conversation 
with a gentleman of equal rank at a game table in a private residence. A broad smile that 
was companionable at the game table might be considered disrespectful at the ball and positively 
lewd in the garden. The cultivated individual was thus required to maintain a constant state 
of social vigilance — surveying shifting circumstances, assessing relevant variables, and adapting 
actions accordingly. 

This, then, was the code of conduct that shaped encounters within the decorated interior. The 
body was used in ways that suppressed its most basic qualities — its awkwardness, its weightiness, its 
spontaneous impulses — in order to deliver a pleasing performance of grace and ease. In this context 
furniture design takes on a whole new look. Consider once again the scenario presented by de Troy 
(p. 14). The low chairs, with their sloping backs and soft cushions, would be difficult to sink into and 
arise from with fluid ease. Accomplished successfully, such movements could highlight a person's 
physical grace and provide opportunities for enjoyable interaction as, say, a gentleman offers a lady 
his hand for support. But accomplished awkwardly, the act of sitting or standing could expose the 
imperfections of an ungainly body or an ill-calculated attempt at gallantry. Moreover, once 19 
ensconced, the sitter is subjected to further conditions. The chair's high, broad back frames the head 
and upper body, drawing attention to facial expressions and hand gestures in a way that could either 
enhance allure or make gracelessness all the more apparent. And, if several such chairs are arranged 
in a tight cluster, as in de Troy's painting, their occupants are effectively immobilized by their 
proximity and so visible to one another that no movement would go unnoticed. The ultimate effect 
of this arrangement is precisely the opposite of what the chair seems designed to do — it may invite 
the user to loll with abandon, but it poses major social risks to those who dare to do so. 

Similarly, the engraving of the supper party (p. 18) is as full of dangers as it is of delights. 
Consider how many objects there are to bump into, tip over, or break: the lightweight chairs and 
side tables, the fragile wineglasses slippery from their bath of cool water, the generously draped 
tablecloth just waiting to catch in the heel of a shoe. On the other hand, consider the opportunities 
for pleasurable performance that are offered by the very same objects. The well-stocked side tables 
might inspire a gentleman to offer his companion a napkin, opening it with a flourish and moving a 
little closer to her in the process. The act of rinsing, filling, and drinking from a wineglass might 
enable a woman to show off the graceful tilt of her head, the delicacy of her hands, the rosiness of 
her lips. The more objects that were involved in a social scenario, the greater the potential for both 
accident and enjoyment. The art of interaction meant negotiating a decorative minefield while 
seeming utterly at ease. 

The vignettes of Dangerous Liaisons are full of such promising yet precarious moments. In "The 
Card Game" (pp. 102-3), the gaming table is simultaneously convenient and challenging. It has a 
light, compact, folding structure that makes it easy to position and reposition according to the 
changing inclinations of the players. Gathered around the table's small surface, several people are 
brought together in intimate proximity. But imagine how easily elbows or knees could collide with a 

jolt rather than a teasing nudge. Imagine how an abrupt gesture of triumph or concession could 
make a teacup fall to the floor, or how someone departing too quickly — especially a woman in 
voluminous skirts — could overturn the entire thing. 

Similarly, the specialized chair used by one man to watch the game both flatters the body and 
demands a significant measure of self-control. Termed a voyeuse (literally, a "viewer"), it is designed 
to be straddled backward by a man (others were made to be knelt upon by a woman). The saddle- 
shaped seat accommodates the user's parted legs, sheathed in tight breeches, and the padded top 
rail offers a comfortable resting place for the forearms. Successfully used, it would have produced a 
pleasing pose, with the man's limbs elegantly extended in a way that highlighted his lace cuffs and 
well-formed calves. At the same time, the proper way to occupy such a chair may not have been 
obvious to everyone, and it demands a physical dexterity that does not come easily to all. Thus the 
voyeuse, like many other objects, yields pleasure — for user and observer alike — only if its image- 
enhancing design features are gracefully engaged. It is also a remarkable example of the way in 
which eighteenth- century furniture turned even the most seemingly simple activity into an artful 
spectacle. The casual act of sitting backward, which easily could be done with a standard side chair, 
becomes an elaborately choreographed pose. The chair is a pedestal for the body, displaying it for 
the delectation of others, while the sitter, in keeping with the rules of cultivated conduct, appears 
unaware of his allure. 

The social power of furniture is perhaps most vividly demonstrated in the vignette entitled 'The 
Levee" (pp. 38-39). It represents a widely practiced eighteenth-century ritual, also known as the 
toilette, in which elite women (and many men) received visitors while dressing. As suggested by an 
engraving after Nicolas Lavreince II (p. 21), the toilette was a semipublic event in which an 
individual presided over the construction of his or her appearance while conducting a variety of 
interactions with a steady stream of visitors. These might include both casual and intimate 
acquaintances, household staff, tailors or milliners in the process of completing commissions, artists 
or writers in search of patronage, and sellers of a wide range of luxury goods from dress trimmings 
to freshly brewed coffee. And although grooming and conversation were the central activities, the 
event also incorporated other leisure pursuits such as serving refreshments and reading aloud. 

Numerous eighteenth-century images and texts represent the toilette as an event devoted solely 
to female vanity, frivolity, and sexual machinations. But it was also an important occasion for the 
game of social seduction through which elite identities were defined. Virtually every aspect of the 
ritual's dynamics — spatial, temporal, material, and behavioral — provided the protagonist with an 
opportunity to express both her own social standing and those of others. Through wide-ranging 
conversation and the display of personal possessions — from books to jewelry to perfume — it 
provided numerous opportunities to demonstrate wealth and taste, exchange information, and 
develop relationships. Moreover, by controlling the point at which visitors were received, the 
duration of their stay, and the way in which they were allowed — or not allowed — to engage with 
objects and events, a woman at her toilette could communicate very specific degrees of social 
intimacy or distance. For instance, an old friend might be admitted alone, while her hostess was still 
bare of makeup, and invited to sit close to the dressing table and drink some rich, expensive 
chocolate from a newly acquired cup. In contrast, a creditor might be summoned to a roomful of 
people during the final stages of the dressing process and made to wait, standing by the door, before 
being dismissed without payment, let alone refreshment. In both cases the visitor would know 
exactly where she or he stood in the nuanced hierarchy of favor. The toilette, in other words, was an 

early modern version of networking — a strategic cultivation of interpersonal connections that define 
and strengthen social positions. 

More than any other elite social ritual, the toilette centered on the aesthetic and social 
seductiveness of the body. In the engraving after Lavreince a woman has her hair done while 
examining fabric samples and entertaining a clergyman and a musician. Several visual cues hint at 
some kind of erotic intrigue. The clergyman fixes his hostess with a satisfied stare while clutching 
the top of a rather phallic cane. And while the musician's face is invisible, the broken strings 
erupting from the top of his instrument suggest that he, too, may be in a somewhat flustered state. 
But the focal point of the composition is the woman herself. Turning away from her dressing table, 
she gestures toward a length of fabric in a way that simultaneously asserts her authority as a 
consumer and displays her bodily charms. The simple act of pointing becomes an occasion for 
displaying an elegantly extended arm and allowing her breasts to be revealed, as if by accident, 
between the ruffled edges of her parted robe. This is a quintessential example of the artful innocence 
with which the elite individual was expected to make herself pleasing to others. By attending 
momentarily to something other than her appearance, she actually draws attention to it, inviting 
delectation without crossing the line into overt exhibitionism. Indeed the title of the print ("What 
does the abbe think of it?") is a play on this feint: she is asking the clergyman about the piece of 
cloth, but his eyes are fixed on her chest. 

Yet the delights of the toilette were every bit as qualified as those of other leisure activities. In 
fact it probably posed more challenges than any other social event, for its extensive array of furniture 
22 and accessories offered almost endless opportunities to either showcase virtuosity or betray a lack of 

finesse. Many of these objects were small, intricately designed, and liable to spill or break. There 
were cosmetics to be applied with tiny brushes, beverages to be served in thin porcelain cups, 
slippery ribbons to be retrieved from lidded boxes — all, of course, while conversing amiably with 
visitors and betraying no sign of awkwardness or effort. 

The accessories of the toilette were often arranged, as in the engraving after Lavreince, on a 
plain table draped with fabric and lace. But the ritual achieved its greatest opportunities and 
difficulties when it was conducted with a specialized dressing table such as the one featured in "The 
Levee." This piece is designed to be manipulated in a variety of ways in order to serve multiple 
functions. The upper half has two lidded storage compartments, an adjustable reading stand that 
rotates in its frame to reveal a mirror on the other side, and a drawer fitted with an inkstand and 
covered by a hinged lid that can be used as a writing surface. This entire top section can be removed, 
revealing four short legs, and used by someone propped up in bed. The lower half of the table 
incorporates two writing slides at front and back and two deep side drawers divided into 
compartments. And to complete its attractions, it is equipped with various objects for grooming, 
sewing, and eating— including rock-crystal perfume flasks, a tortoiseshell eyelash comb, a lacquer 
needle case, and a breakfast set of Sevres porcelain. 

Dressing tables like this were veritable arsenals for social seduction. Each manipulation of the 
object and its fittings would have involved a particular pose or gestural sequence on the part of the 
user. Opening the hinged lids of the upper section might show off the turn of the arms, while 
bending to retrieve something from a lower compartment might allow a glimpse of a powdered neck 
or barely contained breast. On the other hand, consider the awkwardness of groping for the button 
that makes the mirror revolve, or allowing a drooping sleeve to sweep an ink bottle off the writing 
slide. Once again, the object seems endlessly accommodating but elicits a pleasing performance only 

if the user knows how it works and remains in control of the process. 

It should be clear by now that social seduction in eighteenth-century France was impossible 
without furniture. Objects were like extensions of the body, part of a wardrobe that, correctly worn, 
could turn the activities of elite existence into dances of artful persuasion. The wardrobe analogy is 
really very apt, for the way in which furniture simultaneously valorized the body and controlled its 
conduct is closely related to the aesthetic and social impact of clothing. Lace cuffs, for instance, 
emphasized smooth, soft hands that were never subjected to manual labor. Shoes with high heels 
and elongated toes made the wearer seem to hover above the floor and encouraged a light tiptoeing 
gait. Men's coats were cut to curve away from the front of the body, conveying an impression of 
flowing, forward-tilted movement. A similar effect was produced in women by skirts that were fuller 
in the back than in the front and corsets that flattened the abdomen and pushed the chest forward. 
The elite body was thus doubly disciplined by fashion, shaped by both its decorative dressing and its 
decorated environment. 

At first glance the lavishly staged tableaux of Dangerous Liaisons might seem to exemplify a 
world of pure elegance. But the real revelation is the way in which they suggest the risks of pleasure. 
The seductions of the eighteenth-century interior unfolded amid the possibility — indeed, the 
likelihood — of numerous unseductive entanglements. Interacting with decorated spaces was in itself 
a dangerous liaison: an encounter spurred by attraction and fraught with uncertainty, part savvy 
calculation and part unpredictable effect, the magnitude of its dangers equal only to the scope of its 
delights. Like teasing lovers, objects were both alluring and resistant, promising infinite rewards 
even as they posed one challenge after another. And, once we begin to understand the workings of 
these interior motives, the figures who animate the vignettes, like those who look out at us from de 
Troy's convivial reading circle (p. 14) or Moreau le Jeune's intimate supper (p. 18), become even more 
suggestive. They seem to take on a knowing, conspiratorial air — poised for our admiration, inviting 
us to join the game, daring us to take a seat. 


The Portrait: An Unexpected Entanglement 
De Tesse Room (Paris, ca. 1768-72) 

The writer William Combe began his Poetical Epistle to Sir Joshua Reynolds (1777) with the 25 
observation 'This seems to be a Portrait-painting Age/' Whether, as Combe avowed, it was owing to 
"the increase of Sentiment" and "the spirit of Luxury which pervades all ranks and professions of 
men," Europe in the eighteenth century witnessed an escalation and heightened appreciation of 
fashionable portraiture. In France some of the most famous painters of the period were women, 
such as Adelaide Labille-Guiard, Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, and Rose Adelaide Ducreux, whose 
superlative Self-Portrait with a Harp (ca. 1790, p. 47) dominates the De Tesse Room. All of these 
artists achieved notoriety through their depictions of society women, none more so than Vigee- 
Lebrun, whose ability to please and flatter her female sitters made her one of the most sought-after 
portraitists not only in France but throughout Europe. Known for her soft, subdued palette, she 
painted such notable women as Madame du Barry, Madame de Stael, and the duchesse de Polignac, 
but she is best known for her portraits of Marie-Antoinette, whom she first painted in 1778. 
Gradually becoming the queen's official portraitist, or portraitiste en titre, Vigee-Lebrun was admitted 
to the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1783 (along with her rival Labille-Guiard), 
allowing her to participate in the biennial Salon at the Louvre. 

As a tribute to Vigee-Lebrun and her contemporaries, the De Tesse Room reveals several 
conventions of eighteenth-century portraiture. Typically, the painter is shown with palette and 
brushes in hand and canvas hidden from view, as in Labille-Guiard's Self-Portrait with Two Pupils 
(1785, p. 24). While both the artist and the sitter in the room are dressed a la mode, there is a clear 
distinction in their appearance. The artist wears the robe retroussee dans les poches, a style in which 
the skirt was pulled out from the side pockets of the dress and draped over the back. Derived from 
the wardrobe of workingwomen, this casual, practical fashion was adopted by the nobility in the 
1770s, when the English custom of walking in the countryside became popular among the French 
aristocracy. The sitter, in contrast, wears the robe a Vanglaise, a style that was first seen in France in 

the middle of the century and reappeared in the 1780s through the influence of Anglomania. 
Consisting of a back-fitted, front-closing robe and petticoat, the robe, at this date, was worn with a 
small, curved pannier (although, sometimes, it attained its round, billowing silhouette through the 
drapes of the skirt alone). Versatile enough for informal and semiformal settings, the style is also 
worn by the sitter's friend, whose sweetly innocent pink-and-white-striped robe, a candy-colored 
version of the gown represented in Rose Adelaide Ducreux's Self-Portrait with a Harp belies her 
worldly, flirtatious entanglement with the sitter's husband. 

In the eighteenth century the main function of fashion in portraiture was to bestow upon the 
sitter a sense of eternal beauty and elegance. The sitter's white muslin robe a Vanglaise conveys this 
conceit less by its design than by its fabric, which suggests a Claudeian pastoralism. Cotton emerged 
as a modish material in the 1770s and was promoted by such fashion leaders as Marie -Antoinette, 
who, in the summer, often wore a white muslin gown in the style of a chemise. In a sartorial 
expression of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "back-to-nature" philosophy, the queen acted out Arcadian 
pursuits in this simple chemise a la jardiniere or en belle fermiere at her idealized peasant cottage, Le 
Hameau de la Reine, at the Petit Trianon at Versailles. This rusticized raiment, based on the simple 
tubes of white muslin worn by Creole women, was sported by the queen for the portrait attributed 
to Vigee-Lebrun (herself an advocate of pastoral costume) that was shown in the Salon of 1783 
(p. 8). Deemed unsuitable for a queen of France, the painting had to be withdrawn, but the 
attendant excitement helped to popularize the style among women of fashion. Typical of the 
eighteenth-century practice of naming styles of dress after social types, the costume, which presaged 
the Neoclassical fashions of the 1790s and early 1800s (and was itself an expression of classicism), 
came to be known as the chemise a la reine as early as the mid-1770s. This practice extended to 
furniture, as seen in the carved-and-gilded daybed, or duchesse en bateau, on which the sitter is 
reclining. Apart from her stays, aristocratic principles of etiquette and deportment account for her 
rigid, unrelaxed demeanor. Made by Jean-Baptiste II Lelarge, the daybed has a detachable footrest, 
tailoring repose to the length or position of the individual. Designed to shape and cradle the user, 
the daybed was intended to enhance comfort and informality, while displaying the body to best 

An oriental as well as a pastoral sensibility is expressed by the sitter's choice of fabric, which, like 
many cottons from the period, was imported from India. The robe bears a Sanskrit inscription woven 
into the selvedge. Like pastoralism, orientalism was a convention of portraiture intended to evoke 
a sense of timelessness. Men often posed in a dressing gown to indicate their literary and 
philosophical predilections, as seen in Louis-Michel van Loo's portrait of Denis Diderot (1767, 
p. 27). Frequently styled after the Japanese kimono, it could be made from a variety of materials, 
including Indian chintz (such a gown was known in France as the robe de chambre d'indienne). 
A popular form of undress, or deshabille, the dressing gown was also acceptable apparel in which to 
receive visitors. The version worn by the sitter's faithless husband in the De Tesse Room is made 
from silk, the elegant pattern of which finds a visual counterpart in the intricate silver-thread 
embroidery of his wife's robe a Vanglaise. In a tangible expression of the synergy between eighteenth- 
century fashion and furniture, the pattern extends to the graceful latticework marquetry of the table 
mecanique, which occupies a central position in the room. This table, which could be used for eating, 
reading, writing, and dressing was made by the royal cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener for Marie - 
Antoinette's apartment at Versailles and was intended for her amusement at the time of the birth of 
her first child, Marie-Therese Charlotte. 

4 > 





The Levee: The Assiduous Admirer 
Cabris Room (Grasse, ca. 1775-78) 

In the eighteenth century the morning toilette merged private ritual with public performance. It was 35 

an occasion for women of fashion not only to receive friends and keep abreast of the latest news and 

gossip but also to transact business. For Madame de Pompadour, the levee (one of the few times that 

she was not obliged to follow the finer points of court etiquette) was a means of securing and 

furthering her own status at Versailles, as well as that of others. In his portrait of Madame de 

Pompadour at her dressing table (1758 p. 37), Frangois Boucher alludes to the fact that the levee was 

a site of power for the royal mistress by placing the image of Louis XV on a cameo bracelet, which 

she wears on her right wrist. It is thought that the portrait is based on an engraving executed by 

Pompadour herself, a potent symbol of her influence over the king. The ambitious courtier, the due 

de Croy, realized that if he were to secure Pompadour's goodwill, and, in turn, advance his position, 

he would need to be a regular attendee at her toilette. In his memoirs he noted how even the more 

powerful courtiers competed with one another for an invitation to this most private of rituals. For 

many women, however, the privacy of their cabinet de toilette provided an opportunity for romantic 

intrigues. Louis-Roland Trinquesse explored the amorous machinations of the morning toilette in 

his Interior Scene with Two Women and a Gentleman {1776, detail p. 34), which depicts a suitor 

appealing to the heart and emotions of a young woman as she attends to her coiffure with an air of 

self-conscious nonchalance. Women well versed in the art of dressing relished the vanities and 

coquetries of the toilette. As the Petit Dictionnaire de la cour (1788) noted, "A charming woman uses 

more subtlety and politics in her dressing than there are in all the governments of Europe/ 7 

Referencing such tableaux de mode as Trinquesse's Interior Scene, the Cabris Room's mise-en- 
scene captures the intimate social intercourse of the morning toilette. With bright, midday sunlight 
streaming through the windows (eleven-thirty being the usual time that women of leisure began 
accepting visitors), the woman of the house wears typical toilette costume of underwear (stays and a 
chemise) and negligee garments (a peignoir). She is seated in a hairdressing chair, or fauteuil a 

coiffer, the low back of which was designed to facilitate the styling process and draw attention to a 
woman's neck and shoulders. Her admirer is dressed in a silk faille suit or, habit a la frangaise, 
customarily comprising coat, breeches, and waistcoat. While it suggests a faintly demode sensibility 
through its cut, cuffs, and collar, the suit of silk moire worn by the hairdresser is the height of 
fashion. As Philippe Seguy observes in The Age of Napoleon (1989), hairdressers were prominent 
figures in elite society during the eighteenth century. The court was both amused and irritated by the 
erratic behavior and astonishing arrogance of Marie -Antoinette's coiffeur, Leonard. It was Leonard 
who created the famous coiffure a Y enfant for the queen, who, after the birth of her second son, Louis 
Charles, suffered severe hair loss. 

From the 1770s hairstyles increased in height and complexity, becoming the source of endless 
satire. Specialized publications recorded this creative effervescence, such as Legros de Rumigny's 
L 'Art de la coeffure des darnes franqoises, avec des estampes, ou sont representees les tetes coeffees (1767-70), 
a volume of which rests on a side chair in the Cabris Room. Strewn on the floor are cards depicting 
women in fashionable coiffures. Used to play a popular Dutch lottery game of the period, they 
provide insight into the range and diversity of hairstyles in late eighteenth -century Europe. Subject to 
the whims of the moment, styles were often named after events, objects, and even people. The 
coiffure a la Montgolfier, for instance, received its appellation from the inventors of the hot-air balloon. 
In June 1783 the Montgolfier brothers made the first public demonstration of a model hot-air 
balloon, and on September 19, 1783, they launched a balloon carrying a duck, sheep, and a cockerel 
from Versailles in the presence of Louis XVI and Marie -Antoinette. The style sported by the woman 
in the Cabris Room is the coiffure a la Charliere, named after the hydrogen balloon invented by 
Jacques Charles. On December 1, 1783, Charles (along with Marie-Noel Robert) ascended in La 
Charliere to a height of 1,800 feet over the Tuileries. This event inspired the side chair, or chaise a la 
reine, on which the woman's admirer is seated. One of a pair, it was made by Georges Jacob for 
Marie -Antoinette's boudoir in the Chateau de Tuileries and reveals such details as spherical finials 
based on the roundness of a hydrogen balloon (as opposed to the more pear-shaped hot-air balloon). 

Draped over the auxiliary chaise a la reine is a robe a la polonaise, a style that became popular from 
the mid- 1770s. Worn over a petticoat that reached just above the ankles, the polonaise was cut like 
the robe a Vanglaise (but worn over a bustle, which was less restrictive than a pannier and served to 
accentuate the hollow of the back). At the back a system of cord pulleys allowed three panels of the 
dress (a tail and two wings) to be raised so that they fell in curves over the petticoat to create airy 
poufs of material. Like the coiffure a la Charliere, the robe a la polonaise, whose playfully inflated 
silhouette continues the Cabris Room's ballooning iconography, claims cultural significance. The first 
partition of Poland, dividing it among Austria, Prussia, and Russia, took place in 1772, and it is said 
that the robe derives its name from this event. Through its system of transformative drawstrings, the 
polonaise could be worn in a variety of different styles (although the tail and two wings was the most 
common). In the Cabris Room this mutability finds a corollary with the traveling table, or table de 
voyage. Made by Martin Carlin, the table could be manipulated to reveal a mirror, several drawers 
and compartments, and eating, reading, writing, and dressing surfaces. Often such a table was the 
focal point of a woman's morning toilette, designed, as it was, to reveal her ease and grace. 
Incorporating two separable elements that could be used individually or in combination, the table 
required acute physical dexterity. A woman's skillful manipulation of her table de voyage 
demonstrated her gestural virtuosity, offering an opportunity for seductive and coquettish behavior 
that imbued the whole ritual of dressing with a potent erotic receptivity. 



The Music Lesson: A Window of Opportunity 
Paar Room (Vienna, ca. 1765-71) 

Music was central to the concept and practice of artful living in the eighteenth century. Shaping 45 

the rhythm of quotidian aristocratic experience, music, or rather music appreciation, was not only 

a leisure activity in itself, pursued at the opera, ballet, and concert, but it was also an adjunct to other 

leisure activities, animating private dinners, garden parties, and salon gatherings. Like music 

appreciation, musical proficiency, especially in women, was an essential component in the formation 

of elite social personae. John Essex in The Young Ladies Conduct: or, Rules for Education, Under Several 

Heads (1722) wrote that music "is certainly a very great Accomplishment to the LADIES; it refines 

the Taste, polishes the Mind; and is an Entertainment, without other Views, that preserves them 

from the Rust of Idleness, that most pernicious Enemy to Virtue/' While intended for a British 

audience, Essex's musings on the benefits of a musical education for women applied equally to the 

French (although they may have been less receptive to his moralizing overtones). In France, as in 

England, musical aptitude was seen as a sign of refined femininity, greatly enhancing a young 

woman's marriage prospects. Parents went to great lengths to secure the most skillful teachers for 

their daughters' educations. Since most teachers were men, however, this education frequently 

extended beyond the musical to the sensual. Indeed, music masters, or maitres de rnusique, were 

often seen as carnal creatures that preyed upon a young woman's latent sexuality. 

The Paar Room takes the theme of the music lesson as an occasion for sexual transgression, a 
theme familiar to readers of libertine literature in the eighteenth century. In Choderlos de Laclos's 
Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782), the music lesson provides the callow Chevalier Danceny with an 
opportunity to seduce the weak-willed, convent- educated "rosebud" Cecile Volanges. Writing to her 
old school friend Sophie Camay, Cecile enthuses, "I spend a lot of time practicing my singing and 
harp, and I'm enjoying them more now I haven't got a teacher or rather because I've got a better one 
[Danceny]." Of all musical instruments associated with women, and, indeed, culturally sanctioned, 
the harp was viewed as especially apposite for young women (unlike the flute, which was a potent 

symbol of male sexuality). Marie -Antoinette, who, in 1773, wrote in a letter to her mother that she 
was always loyal to her harp and took a long lesson every day, helped to popularize the harp among 
women of fashion. Philip Joseph Hinner, maitre de harpe de la reine, dedicated several harp sonatas to 
the dauphine including "Haughtiness" and "The Chatterer," titles that evoke the harp's ability to 
project a player's coquetry. In the hands of a voluptuary the harp was a powerful instrument of 
seduction, as exemplified in Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune's U Accord parfait {1777, p. 44), which 
shows a skilled musician plucking the harp strings and heartstrings of two admiring gallants. The 
harp, however, was a sexual stimulant for players as well as spectators. Necessitating an intrusion 
between the legs, the harp became an effective autoerotic apparatus. 

As seen in the Paar Room and Moreau Le Jeune's etching, the harp allowed a woman to reveal 
her musical virtuosity as well as to display her pretty hands and nimble fingers. The pedal harp, 
played by the student in the Paar Room, also enabled her to show off a delicate foot and a "well- 
turned ankle." Apparently invented by Jacob Hochbrucker in Bavaria at the turn of the eighteenth 
century, the pedal harp found its greatest success in Paris, where, in the last quarter of the century, it 
was taken up by elite women. Pedal harps were, in themselves, exquisite works of art. Used as 
"props" in portraiture, they denoted status, taste, and a highly refined fashionability, as in Rose 
Adelaide Ducreux's Self-Portrait with a Harp (p. 47). The harp in the Paar Room was made by Renault 
et Chatelain and is sumptuously ornamented in the Rococo style that infuses the room's boiserie 
and furniture. Revealing gilt carvings on the neck, column, and pedestal, its soundboard is hand- 
painted with floral and musical motifs and chinoiserie. This oriental aesthetic extends to the 
student's robe d lafrangaise, an open-front, back-pleated dress worn with a matching petticoat and 
stomacher (a panel with a V- or U-shaped bottom that usually covered the stays and was attached to 
the robe with pins). Made from Chinese-export damask, its sober color is offset by its striped lining 
(a design "secret" reserved for its wearer and her intimates). Exoticism defines the adjustable music 
stand, which could also be used for reading and writing and could be adjusted to the height of the 
user. Executed in Brazilian tulipwood, its graining imitates the changeant taffeta of the Italian music 
tutor's habit a lafrangaise. As Richard Leppert argues in Music and Image (1998), Italian teachers, 
while victims of ridicule and condescension because of their status as "aliens," were highly sought- 
after in France and England in the eighteenth century. Perhaps the most explicit display of exoticism, 
however, is the voyeur's robe a lafrangaise of chine a la branche, with its distinctive water-blotting 
pattern (achieved by printing the pattern onto the warp prior to weaving). Based on ikat, which 
originated in northeast Asia, chine designs were typically applied to fabrics such as silk taffeta. Often 
made in muted pastels with floral motifs, chine was favored by Madame de Pompadour, and was 
often called "Pompadour taffeta." As in life, spies and voyeurs peopled the pages of plays, verses, 
and novels, as the chaperone in the Paar Room would know all too well. Despite the modesty of her 
appearance, she is absorbed in Les Liaisons dangereuses. The chaperone's reverie evokes that of the 
figure in Jean-Honore Fragonard's Young Woman Reading (ca. 1780, p. 124), which hangs in the 
room, paving the way for the music tutor's erotic advances toward her chaste charge. 

The Withdrawing Room: A Helpful Valet 
Varengeville Room (Paris, ca. 1736-52) 

Lavish balls at court and in private residences were extremely fashionable throughout the eighteenth 59 

century, not least because of the indulgent amusements they encouraged. Eating, drinking, dancing, 

and conversing promoted an intoxicating atmosphere of flirtatious merrymaking, with men and 

women appealing to each other's sensory discriminations. Balls, especially royal balls, presented the 

nobility with a ready opportunity to demonstrate the artfulness of their corporeal governance. 

Dance, in particular, offered an expressive paradigm for the appraisal of elite bodily presentation. 

Couples dancing, as represented in he Bal pare (1774, p. 58) by Augustin de Saint-Aubin, was 

especially au courant in the ancien regime. Not only did it allow individuals to display their own 

aristocratic comportment but it also allowed them to observe that of others, based, as most couples 

dancing was, on a series of constantly changing diagonals. The minuet was one of the most popular 

dances of the period. As Sarah R. Cohen explains in Art, Dance, and the Body in French Culture of the 

Ancien Regime (2000), the minuet began symmetrically with bows and promenading, after which the 

dancers moved into opposite corners on a diagonal to embark on the minuet's central Z- or S- 

configuration. Repeated over and over again, this spatial traceiy echoed the physical turns and twists 

of the celebrants, most notably their delicate step patterns and flowing arm gestures, which, in the 

case of women, were enhanced by lace engageantes (small undersleeves with two or three layers of 

flounces). With its simple structure yet intricate movements, the minuet typified the sensuality of 

couples dancing, which, through bodily display and interaction, presented an elaborate 

choreography of seduction. 

In the Varengeville Room, which shows a brief interlude from the dizzy social whirl of a grand 
ball (proving too much for the woman who has fainted and too little for the woman who has caught 
the eye of an attentive valet), the minuet's swirling gestures and movements are echoed visually in 
the room's opulent boiserie, which, stylistically, can be assigned to the early phase of the Rococo 
(just prior to the extreme asymmetry that characterized it between 1736 and 1752). First used in the 

late eighteenth century, long after the decline of the style's hegemony, the term "Rococo" derived 
from rocaille (after the rocks and shells used to line the walls of grottoes) and came to denote 
exuberant asymmetrical ornamentation. Like the minuet the S-line is one of the Rococo's defining 
features. It organizes the Varengeville's boiseries, the easy, airy carving of which recalls the work of 
the sculptor and architect Nicolas Pineau, whom the critic Jacques-Frangois Blondel credits with 
having "invented variety in ornament." The sinuous scrollwork of the paneling includes motifs 
typical of the style, such as palmettes, bats' wings, foliage sprays, and fantastic birds, but they 
remain subordinate to its free -flowing, continuous movement. 

William Hogarth, a fervent supporter of French Rococo, asserted in his Analysis of Beauty (1753) 
that "the beauty of intricacy lies in contriving winding shapes," which, he maintained, could be 
applied to all the arts including costume. Stays featured prominently in his discussions, noting that 
they should not be too straight or too curved. In France during the Rococo period, stays served to 
raise and form the bosom. Those worn in the Varengeville Room are typically concealed by 
stomachers, which, in keeping with the splendor of the occasion, are richly adorned with lace, 
embroidery, and fly fringe (silk floss tied into small knotted tassels). Earlier, in the 1750s, such panels 
might have revealed a ladder of neatly arranged ribbons, or echelle, as seen in Francois Boucher's 
portrait of Madame de Pompadour (1759, p. 61). With its ornate three-dimensional decoration, 
Rococo costume was a Pandora's box of fashion blunders. Few women, however, other than the 
royal mistress negotiated its excesses and frivolities with such natural panache. As can be seen in the 
robes a lafranqaise worn by the women in the room, great ingenuity was used to adorn their surfaces, 
including padded robings and falbalas, or furbelows. Those applied to some of the gowns, including 
the one worn by the fainting woman (whose position clearly reveals the shape of her pannier), are 
made from silver lace, or galloon, which, as can be seen in the armchair, or fauteuil a la reine, in the 
Paar Room, was also used as a trimming for furniture. Several dresses reveal robings with serpentine 
meanderings, a Rococo flourish that finds visual rapport in the legs and arm supports of the room's 
Louis XV seat furniture. In a potent display of the collusion between fashion and furniture, the arms 
of many of the chairs, including the fauteuil a la reine made by Nicolas-Quinibert Foliot (covered in 
its original Beauvais tapestry) have retreated inward to accommodate the period's voluminous 
ballgowns. S -scrolls also dictate the design of the extraordinary gold-and-scarlet japanned writing 
table, or bureau plat. Made by the royal cabinetmaker Gilles Joubert for Louis XV's study at Versailles, 
its chinoiserie decoration establishes a sensual relationship with a group of opulent gowns with 
exoticized design elements relating to the iconography of three of the known continents. One is 
woven with leopard spots evoking Africa, another is brocaded with Asian -inspired pagodas, and a 
third is woven with bands of ermine suggesting the bounteous New World (Alaska being one of the 
ermine's natural habitats). To the far right of this group is a lavish gown brocaded with Roman ruins, 
an early example of the influence of antiquity, which affected the applied arts in France from the 
mid-eighteenth century. While the table's gracefully contoured legs recall those of an elegant femme 
du monde, its ormolu sabots evoke her delicate footwear. For much of the eighteenth century, 
women's petticoats were raised slightly to reveal their shoes, which were exquisitely rendered in 
silks, damasks, and brocades. Although the colors and materials of women's footwear usually 
reflected the elegance of their robes, they rarely matched, except for the most formal occasions. 
From the 1770s the heels of shoes moved toward the instep, producing a light, tiptoeing gait. When 
worn for dancing, they not only enhanced the grace and agility of a woman's performance but also 
the coquetry of her corporeal artifice. 



The Masked Beauty 
Rococo Room (French, ca. 1730-35) 

The custom of masking, which dates back to antiquity, reached its apogee in the eighteenth century. 77 

For a society governed by the pursuit of pleasure, the appeal of disguise lay in the liberties it allowed. 

Negotiating the slippage between reality and fantasy, dress as deception provided endless 

possibilities for social and sexual adventures through the subversion of age, sex, race, and class 

identities. Although every level of society practiced masquerading, the nobility realized its greatest 

potential for role-playing through elite social gatherings such as pageants and fetes galantes, 

rural masquerades with narratives immortalized by Nicolas Lancret, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and 

Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Pater. However, the dynamic versatility of masking was most fully exploited at 

court balls, occasions for the parade of every imaginable character, real or fictional, exotic or pastoral, 

heroic or theatrical. Indeed, it was not unusual for guests to change their costumes during the course 

of an evening, adding to the spiraling confusions of the masquerade. Louis XV appreciated the 

shifting identities and theatrical performances of masquerading. In 1745, when the dauphin was 

married to Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain, the king staged a lavish masked ball in the Galerie des 

Glaces at Versailles. In the watercolor by Charles-Nicolas Cochin II (1745, p. 79), guests arrive in a 

melange of costumes and disguises. The dauphin and his new wife appeared as a shepherd and 

shepherdess, while Louis XV and a group of attendant courtiers came as clipped yew trees from the 

palace gardens. In the watercolor the king is portrayed talking to a woman dressed as a huntress to 

his right, while behind him is a shepherdess, both of whom, depending on the source, have been 

interpreted as Madame d'Etioles, later Madame de Pompadour, who was a guest at the ball. 

Subsequently, she was to be painted in both guises, as Diana by Jean-Marc Nattier (1748), and as La 

Belle Jardiniere by Carle van Loo (ca. 1754-55). The latter portrait evoked her love of nature and 

gardening, an interest evident in the theatrical pastorals she produced and starred in for the king's 

amusement at Versailles. Over their usual court dress, many of the guests, as depicted in the 

watercolor, wore the domino. Consisting of a full, long gown with a hood, it was worn by both men 

and women when they did not wish to wear fancy dress. Along with a mask, the domino was the 
most basic form of court (and carnival) disguise. Such gowns, which were usually made of silk, 
covered the clothes beneath, creating a visual disequilibrium that rendered suspect any positive 

A fan is used by the masked beauty to conceal her identity. Painted with a white mask, the fan 
parodies the trompe l'oeil effects of masquerading. In the eighteenth century fans, like swords for 
men, were romantic adjuncts to a woman's costume. They served as aids for the elegant display of 
the hands, as well as for the subtle aspects of courtship, giving rise to a complex sign language that 
was taught in a special academy in London. Noting such visual communication, the essayist Joseph 
Addison observed in The Spectator (1711): " Women are armed with fans as men with swords, and 
sometimes do more execution with them. ... I have seen a fan so very angry that it would have 
been dangerous for the absent lover who provoked it to have come within the wind of it, and at 
other times so very languishing that I have been glad for the lady's sake that the lover was at a 
sufficient distance from it. I need not add that a fan is either a prude or a coquette, according to the 
nature of the person who bears it." Like fans, ribbons worn in knots at the arms, waist, and bosom 
were part of the vocabulary of allusion, as were patches worn on the face. 

With its intricate hand-painted detailing, the fan abets the aesthetic dynamism of the masked 
beauty's elaborately embellished robe a lafrangaise. Made of silk satin with silver floral brocade and 
bobbin-lace trimming, its padded robings and furbelows promote a visual intensity heightened by the 
robe's proportions. The eighteenth-century impulse to exaggerate decoratively was satisfied 
corporeally through stays and the pannier, infra-edifices that, in their ability to conceal a woman's 
natural contours, extended the paradigm of masquerading. Usually made of whalebone, stays, which 
arrived in France from Spain in the sixteenth century, served to raise the bust, narrow the waist, and 
force the shoulders back. Reinforced with a center-front steel strip, or busk, effecting a ramrod 
posture critical to elite self-display, stays required a woman to bend at the hips rather than at the 
waist. A popular conceit of the period, often represented in caricatures, was that of a woman 
removing her busk to fend off the advances of an ardent admirer. By drawing attention to the 
principal physical and symbolic obstacle to her virtue, however, the busk was less an object of 
punishment than of provocation. Usually, small hip pads were attached to stays to support the 
pannier, a hooped petticoat made of cane, metal, wood, or whalebone. A relative of the sixteenth 
century vertugade, or farthingale, the pannier, so-called because of its resemblance to a cage, first 
appeared in France in 1718. As Madeleine Delpierre notes in Dress in France in the Eighteenth Century 
(1997), its initial form was a small, truncated cone, but from 1725 it gradually developed into a large, 
bell-shaped dome. By about 1740 the pannier grew more elliptical, the result of a system of internal 
pulleys, and around the mid-eighteenth century it divided into two cages fastened together with tape 
or cords. Known as "elbow panniers" or "comfort panniers," because the forearms could be rested on 
them, they varied in depth and extension. Extreme versions, usually reserved for the most formal 
occasions, created a narrow, flattened silhouette that demanded acute spatial perspicacity. As shown 
in Les Adieux (1777) by Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (p. 76), such a widened hipline required a 
woman to pass through a doorway sideways. Henry Fielding in his novel Tom Jones (1749) describes 
such a spectacle: "In short, a footman knocked, or rather thundered, at the door. . . . The door of the 
room flew open, and after pushing in her hoop sideways before her, entered Lady Bellaston." 





The Favorite 
Rococo Room (French, ca. 1730-35) 

Writing about France in the 1770s and 1780s, the artist Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun declared, with more 83 

than a soupgon of self-regard, "Women reigned/' This, at least in terms of their social status, was the 

case for most of the century. Indeed, in an age when wit, charm, and intelligence were the measure 

of both men and women, the sexes were equally pitched. Of all the social settings in which men and 

women converged, the salon offered a lively context for women to assert their cultural authority. 

One of the first to realize its social and intellectual possibilities was Madame du Deffand, who 

entertained some of the greatest artists, writers, politicians, and philosophers of the Enlightenment. 

In his edition of her letters the writer Horace Walpole described how the salonniere embodied "the 

graces of the most polished style which, however, are less beautiful than the graces of the wit they 

clothe/' Madame du Deffand, however, was but one of a coterie of women who greatly affected the 

literary and artistic traditions of the period. Voltaire's lover, the marquise du Chatelet, was a 

prodigious and disciplined intellectual known for her writings on metaphysics. Blessed with beauty 

as well as brains, it was said that when she visited Louis XV (opposite, as a child), she placed two 

rubies over her nipples, much to the king's delight. Louis XV was a serial adulterer. He is alleged, 

however, to have given his wife, Queen Marie Leszcynska, who bore him ten children, "seven proofs 

of love" on the night of their wedding. While he took many lovers, few women attained the coveted 

position of favorite, or official royal mistress. Among the exceptions were Madame de Pompadour 

and Madame du Barry, who became two of the most powerful women of the Enlightenment. 

The two favorites made themselves indispensable to Louis XV, acting as lovers and confidantes, 
as well as policy advisers and ministerial consultants. Many official royal mistresses, or mattresses en 
Hire, before them had played a role in state business, but Madame de Pompadour and Madame du 
Barry greatly extended the position to promote their own and the king's policies. This was all the 
more extraordinary given that neither woman was born into the aristocracy, the usual reserve for 
royal mistresses. Pompadour's background was middle class, or bourgeois at best, and Barry's 

working class. However, what they lacked in terms of their social backgrounds, they more than 
made up for in terms of their beauty. Before Pompadour met Louis XV, the wit and magistrate 
President Henault, after meeting her at the Opera, told Madame du Deffand that Pompadour was 
"one of the prettiest women I have ever seen/' adding that "she understands music perfectly, sings 
with all the gaiety and good taste imaginable, knows by heart a hundred songs and takes part in 
plays/' On becoming the king's mistress, Pompadour served as the unofficial cultural minister, 
commissioning and collaborating with some of the most important artists, craftsmen, and 
practitioners of the Rococo. 

Madame de Pompadour's taste in dress reflected the visual arts she promoted. Unlike the pious 
Queen Marie Leszcynska, who, like her daughters, showed little interest in clothes, Pompadour was 
the mirror of fashion. She defined the elegance of the Rococo, as seen in the many portraits of her 
by Francois Boucher. In what is arguably Boucher's finest, painted in 1756 and shown at the Salon 
the following year (p. 6), her status as fashion arbiter is plainly evident in a robe a lafrangaise that 
seems to take over the picture. Made from emerald green silk taffeta, it is decorated with frilled 
robings and furbelows with applied pink silk roses. Her stomacher is richly adorned with a ladder of 
ribbons, or echelle, of pink silk taffeta with silver stripes. Matching ribbons are tied around her neck 
and applied to her flared sleeve cuffs, below which appear lace engageantes. With roses in her hair, 
strings of pearls at her wrists, and pink satin mules on her feet (arched with "Louis" heels that 
reflect the elegance of the ormolu sabots on the writing table beside her), the overall image is one of 
elegant harmony. She wears an equally graceful robe a lafrangaise in Boucher's last portrait, painted 
in 1759 (p. 61). By now in her late thirties, Pompadour is still portrayed as a young, beautiful woman, 
a testament to her skills in the arts of image making. 

Although Madame du Barry did not exert the same influence on costume as her predecessor, she 
had a keen interest in fashion. As a girl, she had been employed by one of the most exclusive 
boutiques in Paris owned by Monsieur Labille (the father of Adelaide Labille-Guiard). Joan Haslip 
argues in Madame du Barry (2005) that it was while working for Labille that Barry learned to dress in 
the pale colors that best suited her blue eyes and blonde hair. Madame du Barry's beauty was even 
more legendary than Pompadour's. Recalling his first meeting with her, Monsieur Belleval wrote in 
his memoirs: "I can still see her carelessly seated or rather reclining in a large easy chair, wearing a 
white dress with wreaths of roses. She was one of the prettiest women at a court which boasted so 
many, and the very perfection of her loveliness made her the most fascinating." Madame du Barry 
affected a romantic carelessness in her appearance, and, like her rival Marie-Antoinette, favored the 
simple cotton chemise not only for the comfort it afforded but also because it revealed her famous 
bosom to great effect. In contrast to Marie-Antoinette's more modest appearance in her portrait 
attributed to Vigee-Lebrun (p. 8), Barry dared to pose for the artist Frangois-Hubert Drouais in a 
sheer cotton chemise with a hint of her right nipple showing (p. 85). She would often dine with the 
king in such attire, her hair loosely knotted and decorated with flowers. Despite her fondness for 
dressing en deshabille, etiquette demanded that she wear the robe a lafrangaise for formal occasions. 
From the 1770s the style became less popular as everyday fashion, but it was still worn at court, 
maintaining tradition as well as its namesake. As can be seen by the version worn by "The Favorite" 
arranging flowers, a reference to another painting of Barry by Drouais, formal dress was still meant 
to dazzle through the opulence of its materials and the exaggeration of its silhouette. 




The Broken Vase: A Consoling Merchant 
Sevres Room (French, ca. 1770) 

Luxury objects were pivotal to the formation of aristocratic identity in the ancien regime, serving as 89 
powerful statements of affluence and, more importantly, aesthetic discrimination. Elite men and 
women, recognizing their symbolic significance, consumed decorative artworks with an appetite that 
was as audacious as it was rapacious. Madame de Pompadour, in particular, was known for her 
voracious consumption of extravagant commodities. In Madame de Pompadour (2002), Colin Jones 
notes that after her death in 1764 it took a team of specialists more than two years to prepare for the 
auction of her prodigious collection (which, during her lifetime, was dispersed among her numerous 
properties, including Crecy, Bellevue, and the Hotel d'Evreux, and, to a large extent, reserved for the 
private delectation of the king and their circle of friends). Twenty years after the sale, the writer 
Louis-Sebastien Mercier recalled "the admiration mixed with amazement" elicited by viewing 
Pompadour's wealth of " objects of luxury, fantasy and magnificence." Although her obsession for 
decoration extended across the spectrum of the applied arts, her greatest passion was porcelain. In 
an attempt to serve the state and enhance royal popularity, she directed her attention to French- 
produced porcelain. To support local manufactories, which reduced France's dependence on imports 
and attracted foreign currency to the country, was, in Pompadour's words "to be a good citizen." It 
was a role she took seriously (and one that extended to the Paris garment industry, which enlisted 
her as a mannequin). She was instrumental in establishing the Manufacture royale de Sevres (1759), 
with which her name became associated. Most of the porcelain she purchased was in a variety of 
blues and whites (the "rose Pompadour" seems to have gained its name after her death). Louis XV 
shared his favorite's interest in porcelain and bought for himself 25,000 livres of Sevres each year. In 
the cause of national interest, a shop was opened on the rue de la Monnaie (just off the rue Saint- 
Honore, which, by the mid-eighteenth century, had become a major center of the trade in luxury 
goods) as a depot royal des porcelains de Sevres. 

Shopping was an important component of eighteenth-century aristocratic experience. Indeed, 

the shops where luxury objects were sold were places for sociability as well as seduction, themes 
explored in "The Shop" (p. 116) and "The Broken Vase," the latter based on a conflation of Jean- 
Antoine Watte au's Gersaint's Shop Sign (1720, p. 88), and Michel Garnier's The Poorly Defended Rose 
(1789, p. 91). While Watteau's painting provides the context for the Sevres Room's vignette, 
Garnier's provides the denouement, notably a merchant, or marchand mercier, embracing a young 
woman whose elderly husband is inspecting a jewel coffer, or coffre a bijoux, mounted with Sevres 
porcelain plaques. As in Garnier's painting, the vignette is infused with symbols of love, such as the 
closed jewel coffer and the hand-painted flowers on the Sevres plaques, which are mirrored on the 
young woman's robe a la polonaise. Referencing the origins of porcelain, the robe is made from 
Chinese silk, the color of which reflects the so-called biscuit developed by Sevres. The scene, like 
Garnier's painting, is also infused with symbols of loss of virtue, such as the broken vase and the two 
dogs that have leapt from the arms of their mistress. In eighteenth-century portraiture dogs 
frequently appeared as symbols of devotion. Madame de Pompadour, revealing her loyalty to Louis 
XV, was often painted with her two beloved papillons, Ines and Mimi, who were known also as 
"Fidelity" and "Constancy," respectively. Pompadour was so attached to her dogs that she 
commissioned several portraits of them, including one that appeared on the lid of a Sevres porcelain 
snuffbox. In Frangois Boucher's last portrait of her (p. 61), in which she is in a garden setting dressed 
in a typical Rococo confection, Ines is sitting on a bench, her devotion to her mistress mirroring her 
mistress's devotion to her king. 

It is likely that the jewel coffer attributed to Martin Carlin was commissioned by Pompadour's 
90 successor, Madame du Barry. Sevres-mounted porcelain furniture appealed primarily to female 

clients, many of whom, like Madame du Barry, patronized the marchands merciers Simon-Philippe 
Poirier and his partner and successor Dominique Daguerre, principal purchasers of porcelain 
plaques from the Sevres manufactory. While the guild regulations of marchands merciers forbade 
them to make luxury objects, they were permitted to commission pieces and to facilitate production 
by supplying design and even materials to artisans and manufactories. The same rules applied to 
marchands de modes, the ancestors of the grand couturiers of the nineteenth century. Suppliers of 
trimmings and accessories, marchands de modes practiced a way of working that was creative and 
conceptual rather than manual and mechanical. Perhaps the most celebrated marchand de mode of 
the eighteenth century was Rose Bertin, who came to public attention when, while working for the 
mattresse couturiere Mademoiselle Pagelle, she made the wedding trousseau of the duchesse de 
Chartres. Although the work of the mattresse couturiere, who made the garments, and that of the 
marchand de mode, who trimmed them, were separate in the guild system of the ancien regime, the 
fact that Bertin achieved such eminence illustrates the importance attached to trimmings, or 
agreements, by fashionable women. After she opened her own business in 1770, Bertin used her 
fertile imagination, her talent as a businesswoman, and her knack for self-publicity to dictate the 
rules of fashion to all the courts of Europe. Her most famous client, however, was Marie -Antoinette. 
Bertin's biweekly meetings with the queen earned her the soubriquet "Minister of Fashion." She 
continued to supply Marie -Antoinette with trimmings and accessories after the queen's arrest and 
imprisonment in the Temple during the French Revolution (1789-99). Marie- Antoinette's 
extravagance in matters of dress was notorious. Indeed, the queen's profligacy weighed heavily 
against her during her trial, which, ultimately, ended in her death on October 16, 1793, at the blade 
of "Saint Guillotine." 

The Card Game: Cheating at Cavagnole 
Bordeaux Room (Bordeaux, ca. 1785) 

In Jean-Frangois de Bastide's erotic architectural novella La Petite Maison (1758), a round salon 99 

"unequalled in all the universe" served as the initial (interior) setting for the sensory education of 

the virtuous Melite by the cultivated Marquis de Tremicour. "So voluptuous was this salon/' wrote 

Bastide, "that it inspired the tenderest feelings, feelings that one believes one could have only for its 

owner." Small, curved rooms became particularly fashionable during the late eighteenth century. 

Used as cabinets, boudoirs, or bedchambers in the private apartments of hotels and mansions, their 

size, shape, and status encouraged intimacy and informality. Negating the presence of servants, 

many ovoid or round rooms were fitted with mechanical conveyances such as dumbwaiters and 

tables volantes, or tables machinees. Used as an instrument of seduction in La Petite Maison, 

a multitask version of a table volante is described in the Mercure de Prance: "When the guests enter 

the room, not a single trace of the table would be visible; they see only a very open parquet with 

an ornamental rose at the center. At the slightest signal, the petals withdraw under the parquet 

and the served table springs up, accompanied by four dumbwaiters which rise through four 

openings at the same time." Such feats of technical trickery actively enhanced an ovoid or round 

room's potential for dalliance. 

The Bordeaux Room, which was originally serviced by a dumbwaiter, reveals its mischievous 
possibilities through a game of chance. During the ancien regime gambling was ubiquitous, as 
evidenced in paintings and engravings from the period, such as Pierre Louis Dumesnil le Jeune's 
Interior with Card Players (ca. 1750-60, p. 98), and Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune's La Partie de whist 
(1788, p. 101). As Thomas M. Kavanagh observes in Enlightenment and the Shadows of Chance (1993), 
this epidemic was in no small part due to the example set by the nobility, who gambled with 
dizzying intensity and alarming regularity. Central to the social rituals of the aristocracy, gambling, 
or rather the revenue generated from gambling, helped to offset the lavish receptions hosted by the 
nobility. Most lucrative werejeux de hasard such as hoca, biribi, basset, pharaon, and lansquenet, as 

opposed to jeux de commerce, in which skill played more of a role than the chance-driven turning of a 
card, rolling of a die, or picking of a number. In the Bordeaux Room two men and two women are 
indulging in ajeu de hasard known as cavagnole, an early form of lotto. One of the women, abetted 
by an abbe in his role as cicisbeo, is cheating. If the abbe's status, announced by his black "suit of 
office" (an outward symbol of his piety and righteousness) works to the woman's advantage, so does 
the chair on which he is seated. Known as a viewer, or voyeuse, it was designed specifically for 
gaming sessions and was produced in a variety of different models depending on the sitter's gender. 
With its high, saddle-shaped seat, the chair in the Bordeaux Room, which is attributed to Sulpice 
Brizard, was designed for a male spectator. Straddling it backward, he could rest his arms on the top 
rail of the chair and watch the game unfold. While a voyeuse, through its design and function, 
allowed a spectator to view the hand of a player (and in the case of the abbe literally support his 
duplicity), a game table, such as the one in the room attributed to Bernard II van Risenburgh, 
prevented such a privilege between participants. Although the size of the table, or table djouer, 
brought players into close proximity, the legs as well as the rounded corners of the playing surface 
(designed to support candlesticks) limited and controlled this proximity, protecting each player's 
hand and preventing the possibility of cheating. 

As a social practice among the aristocracy, gambling on such high-stake games as cavagnole was 
governed by a strict code of ethics. A true nobleman never gambled purely for the purpose of 
winning, but to show his indifference to and independence from money as a commodity. Cheating 
revealed a person's social inferiority by indicating an immoderate attachment to financial 
attainment. To gamble for gain was to equate social status with wealth, an ethos that was regarded 
as distinctly bourgeois. Gambling avariciously involved the application of reason and probability, an 
approach that was seemingly antithetical to the aristocracy. Ironically, the ideal of rationality became 
the grounds upon which bourgeois moralists condemned gambling during the eighteenth century. 
This ideology reflected the intellectual posturings of French Enlightenment philosophers such as 
Voltaire and Denis Diderot, who advocated rationality as a means to establish a system of ethics, 
aesthetics, and knowledge. In art their teachings came to be associated with Neoclassicism, a style, 
which, impelled by excavations at Herculaneum in 1738, gradually replaced the Rococo from the 
mid-eighteenth century. Defined by its rigor and sobriety, the style suffuses the decoration of the 
Bordeaux Room. The rational austerity of the room's boiserie, attributed to Barthelemy Cabirol and 
his workshop, are typical of Neoclassicism's restraining and regularizing tendencies. This same 
impulse to control and organize can be seen in the clarified carvings of the Bordeaux Room's 
furniture, particularly in the chairs on which the players are seated. Typical of the aesthetic 
coherence of eighteenth -century French decorative arts, their strict lines extend to the textiles of the 
men's habits a la frangaise and the women's robes a lajrangaise, the simple stripes of which represent 
a distillation of the aesthetic principles of Neoclassicism. Striped fabrics began to make their 
appearance in the 1760s, although it was not until the mid-1770s that they came to replace the 
curving ribbons and sinuous garlands of flowers that had been so much an aspect of Rococo 
fashions. While the cotton chemise worn by Madame du Barry and Marie -Antoinette revealed a 
nascent classicism, it was not until the mid-1790s (when women finally abandoned their stays and 
panniers) that the gout grec fully impacted on fashion in the form of the Directoire style. 

The Late Supper: The Memento 
Crillon Room (Paris, ca. 1777-80) 

In the eighteenth century the notion of chance, or le hazard, was not limited to high-stakes 109 

gambling, but actually sustained and regulated elite social interactions, particularly those of the 

libertine and the voluptuary. Chance as a strategy of seduction provided a thematics of 

representation for artists like Francois Boucher, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and Jean-Honore Fragonard, 

and for writers such as Denis Diderot, Crebillon fils, and Choderlos de Laclos. As Catherine Cusset 

explains in The Libertine Reader (1997), pleasure as the product of chance propels the narrative of 

Dominique Vivant Denon's Point de lendemain (1777), a short novella of a one-night affair without 

sequel and, seemingly, without consequences. One evening, as the young narrator (who is not 

named) waits for his mistress to join him at the Opera, he is abducted by the beautiful and 

manipulative Mme de T and is taken to a chateau outside Paris, where they make love 

deliciously and repeatedly. Whenever an erotic contact occurs between the two protagonists, it is 
ascribed to chance, as is their first physical encounter: "The lurching of the carriage [on the journey 

toward the chateau] caused Mme de T 's face to touch mine. At an unexpected jolt, she grasped 

my hand; and I, by the purest chance, caught hold of her in my arms/' Chance enables Mme 

de T to preserve "certain principles of decency to which she was scrupulously attached/' while, 

at the same time, it allows her to advance and acquiesce to the narrator's lovemaking. In the final 
scene of seduction, which occurs in a secret chamber covered in mirrors, these "principles of 
decency 77 are revealed for what they are, pretenses of decency. At the same time this "vast cage of 
mirrors" exposes chance for what it is, a veil and a vehicle for physical pleasure. 

Mirrors reflect and inflame the libidinous enterprise in the Crillon Room, a polyhedral cabinet des 
glaces decorated about the same time that Denon published Point de lendemain. While many materials 
were used for inserts to boiserie in the eighteenth century, such as velvets, brocades, and tapestries, 
mirrors held a unique position because of their ability to augment a room's spatial, ornamental, and 
luminescent arrangement. Enchanted by their reflective amplification, Horace Walpole, in a letter to 

George Selwyn on September 16, 1776, writes: "Madame de Marchais ... has a house in a nut-shell, 
that is fuller of inventions than a fairy-tale; her bed stands in the middle of the room because there is 
no other space that would hold it; and is surrounded by such a perspective of looking glasses, that 
you may see all that passes in it from the first antechamber/' Mirror rooms, which appeared in 
French domestic architecture from the end of the sixteenth century, were costly marks of distinction. 
Even after the invention of plate glass in the late seventeenth century, a technique that increased the 
speed of production as well as the size and weight of the mirrors themselves, the larger versions 
required for a cabinet des glaces remained beyond the reach of all but a few. 

The taste for reflection in the eighteenth century was disseminated through fashionable 
engravings, such as Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune's WAyezpas peur ma bonne amie {1776, p. 126). It 
shows a young woman lying on a sofa in a niche, the back wall of which is mirrored in a similar 
manner to the recess in the Crillon Room. Like the illustration, the Crillon's mirrored crevice 
promotes a sense of intimacy and playfulness. The mise-en-scene shows a woman in an exquisite 
robe a lafrangaise with her comperes unhooked to reveal her corset. Comperes, which were introduced 
as an alternative to the stomacher in the mid- to late-1760s, were two flaps of fabric that formed a 
false waistcoat fastened with hooks or buttons. In her hand is one of her garters, which she is about 
to give to her suitor as a memento of their erotic encounter. Garters, which usually consisted of a silk 
ribbon tied just above the knee to hold up the stockings, were often embroidered with sexual 
sayings. Madeleine Delpierre notes (1997) that from the 1770s garters became more elaborate and 
could even take the form of a small satin bracelet in two halves, one bearing springs inside to act as 
elastic, the other decorated with amorous devices. The Cabris Room's vignette is a conflation of 
Jean-Frangois de Troy's The Garter (p. 108) and The Declaration of Love (p. Ill), painted in 1724. 
Conceived as pendants, these tableaux de mode present two scenes of seduction acted out in opulent 
interiors that serve as a catalogue of French interior design of the period. Both reveal wall surfaces 
that have been painted, a treatment popular in the early eighteenth century and one revived through 
the influences of Neoclassicism, as seen in the delicately painted boiserie in the Crillon Room. 
Designed by Pierre-Adrien Paris and executed by an unknown artist, the panels are based on a 
series of arabesques painted by Raphael and his assistants on the walls of the Vatican loggias in the 
early sixteenth century. Imbued with a Neoclassical sensibility, the Crillon Room's boiseries act as a 
sumptuous backdrop for the woman's ravishing robe a lafrangaise, made from silk taffeta painted 
with stripes and flowers in the easy style of the wall panels, and also for the resplendent 
Neoclassical furniture. The daybed and the armchair, resting on legs inspired by Ionic columns, were 
made in 1788 by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sene for Marie -Antoinette's cabinet de toilette at the Chateau 
de Saint-Cloud. The two uprights on the front of the daybed, as well as the armrest supports of the 
chair, are carved with busts of Egyptian maidens. Egyptianizing iconography was introduced in the 
1770s and became fairly widespread in the 1780s. At the turn of the nineteenth century Vivant 
Denon exposed the allure of Egypt to a wider European audience through the publication of his 
Voyage dans la basse et haute Egypte (1803). An account of his expedition with Napoleon in 1798, this 
travelogue revealed the diversity and richness of Egyptian antiquities just as astutely as his Point de 
lendemain had disclosed the licentious stratagems of the libertine and the voluptuary. 






Suit (Habit a la frangaise) . French, 1780-89. Black silk 
pile voided velvet with dark red faille ground and 
multicolored floral silk embroidery, ivory silk satin 
with multicolored floral silk embroidery. Rogers 
Fund, 1932 (32.40a-c) 

The Portrait: An Unexpected 

Formal Reception Room from the Hotel de Tesse, 
Paris (ca. 1768-72) 

The Hotel de Tesse, at 1 quai Voltaire, Paris, was built 
for Marie -Charlotte de Bethune-Charost, widow of 
Comte Rene de Tesse, between 1765 and 1768. The 
plans are attributed to Pierre -Noel Rousset (1715- 
1793), a member of the Academie Royale d' Archi- 
tecture. The interior decoration was probably complet- 
ed by the time the final payment was made, on April 9, 
1772, to the architect and contractor Louis Letellier 
(died 1785). The windows of this room opened on to a 
balcony overlooking the Seine and the Louvre beyond. 
The room, referred to as the salle du dais, or canopy 
room, in the inventory drawn up after the death of the 
comtesse de Tesse in 1783, was used for official recep- 
tions and for ceremonial transactions, during which the 
comtesse sat under a crimson damask canopy embroi- 
dered with gold thread. 

The Painter 

Dress (Robe retroussee dans les poches). French, 1770-90. 
Rose, pale green, and dark brown tartan silk taffeta. 
Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1964 (CI.64.33a, b) 

The Sitter 

Dress (Robe a Vanglaise). French, 1784-87. White cotton 
muslin with hammered silver thread embroidery. Isabel 
Shults Fund, 1991 (1991.204a, b) 

Daybed (Duchesse en bateau). French, ca. 1770. Jean- 
Baptiste II Lelarge (1711-1771). Carved and gilded 
beech, modern cinnamon- colored silk velvet. Purchase, 
Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 1987 (1987.188a, b) 

The Sitter's Husband 

Dressing Gown. French, second half of the eighteenth 
century. Rose and light gray faille with multicolored silk 
floral brocade. Purchase, Estate of Irene Lewisohn and 
Alice Crowley, 1976 (1976.149.1) 

Mechanical Table (Table mecanique). French, 1778. Jean- 
Henri Riesener (1734-1806). Oak veneered with bois 
satine, holly, amaranth, barberry, sycamore, and green 
lacquered wood, gilt bronze. Rogers Fund, 1933 (33.12) 

The Sitter's Friend 

Dress (Robe d Vanglaise). French, 1785-87. Ivory and 
pink striped silk taffeta. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn 
Bequest, 1966 (CI.66.39a, b) 

Paneling (Boiserie). French, 1768-72, with later addi- 
tions. Carved, painted, and gilded oak. Gift of Mrs. 
Herbert N. Straus, 1942 (42.203.1) 


The Levee: The Assiduous Admirer 

The Music Lesson: A Window of 

Room from the Hotel de Cabris, Grasse 
(ca. 1775-78) 

The Hotel de Cabris, in the town of Grasse, in southern 
France, is now a local museum. It was built between 
1771 and 1774 for Jean-Paul de Clapiers, marquis de 
Cabris, and his wife, nee Louise de Mirabeau, who 
hired the little -known Milanese architect Giovanni 
Orello.The oak paneling, which was carved, painted, 
and gilded in Paris, is described in a 1778 inventory of 
the hotel as still being packed in crates. Owing to the 
vicissitudes suffered by the Cabris family (the marquis 
was declared insane in 1777) and the upheavals of the 
French Revolution, this paneling may not have been 
unpacked or installed until the early nineteenth cen- 
tury. It was then assembled in the space originally 
intended for a small reception room, or salon de com- 
pagnie, behind the first two windows to the left of the 
central projecting block on the second floor. Photo- 
graphs taken of the room when it was in situ show that 
there were originally five mirrors and five pairs of dou- 
ble doors. The fifth pair was located in the center of the 
wall opposite the windows and was flanked by mirrors. 
The Carrara marble chimneypiece, contemporary with 
but not original to the room, was formerly in the Hotel 
de Greffuhle, 8-10 rue d'Astorg, Paris. 

The Woman 

Peignoir. French, mid- to late eighteenth century. White 
linen with blue ribbon trim. Courtesy of Lillian Williams 

Stays. European, third quarter of the eighteenth cen- 
tury. Pale blue linen with white linen tape trim. Gift of 
the Jacqueline Loewe Fowler Costume Collection, 1983 

Hairdressing Chair (Fauteuil a coiffer). French, 

ca. 1760. Attributed to Louis Delanois (1731-1792). 

Carved beech. Courtesy of Anthony Victoria 

Traveling, Dressing, Writing, and Eating Table (Table 
de voyage). French, 1775-80. Martin Carlin (ca. 1730- 
1785). Oak and pine veneered with tulipwood, 
sycamore, holly, boxwood, and ebony, gilt bronze. 
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1976 

Dress {Robe a la polonaise). French, 1778-80. Pink silk 
jacquard with pale green and ivory silk, silk passe- 
menterie trim. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1960 

Side Chair (Chaise a la reine). French, 1784. Georges 
Jacob (1739-1814). Carved and gilded walnut, modern 
pink silk moire damask. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles 
Wrightsman, 1977 (1977.102.13) 

The Admirer 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise) . European, ca. 1770. Pale pink 
silk faille with multicolored floral embroidery. 
Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1966 

Side Chair (Chaise a la reine). French, 1784. Georges 
Jacob (1739-1814). Carved and gilded walnut, modern 
pink silk moire damask. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles 
Wrightsman, 1977 (1977.102.14) 

The Hairdresser 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise) . European, ca. 1780. Pale pink 
silk moire with multicolored floral embroidery. 
Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1960 (C.I.60.5a-c) 

Joseph Legros de Rumigny (French) . L 'Art de la coeffure 
des dames frangoises, avec des estampes, ou sont represen- 
tees les tetes coeffees, 1767-70. Hand-colored engravings. 
Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Fund, 2004 

Michael Schmidt (German). Extra Vermaklyk Lotery-Spel, 
ca. 1780. Hand-colored engraved playing cards. Gift of 
Richard Martin, 1998 

Paneling (Boiserie). French, 1775-78, with later addi- 
tions. Carved, painted, and gilded oak. Purchase, Mr. 
and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 1972 (1972.276.1, 2) 

Room from the Palais Paar, Vienna (ca. 1765-71) 

The paneling of this room comes from the Palais Paar, 
which stood at Wollzeile 30, in Vienna, until 1938. The 
large quadrilateral Baroque palace, with a central 
courtyard, was built about 1630 for the postmaster of 
the Holy Roman Empire, Baron Johann Christoph 
von Paar. The stables necessary to conduct the exten- 
sive business of a post office were located at the back 
of the building at street level. Behind the twelve large 
windows above the two entrances in the main facade 
were four large state rooms. These rooms and the 
living quarters on the same floor were completely 
remodeled between 1765 and 1771 for Count Wenzel 
Joseph Johann von Paar. According to bills formerly 
in the possession of the Paar family, architect Isidor 
Canevale (1730-1786) and sculptor Johann Georg 
Leithne (1725-1785) carried out this remodeling. The 
Museum's room is composed of elements from two 
rooms in the living quarters. Almost all the paneling 
is original. Only the arched window surrounds on the 
south wall and the four pairs of frames for the French 
windows are modern additions. The breche dAlep 
marble chimneypiece is of the period but not original 
to the Palais Paar. The flooring of oak squares, called 
parquet de Versailles, is antique, but the plaster cornice 
and ceiling are modern. 

The Student 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, ca. 1770. Ivory silk 
damask. Purchase, Funds from Various Donors, 1999 
(1999.41a, b) 

Armchair (Fauteuil a la reine). French, ca. 1730. Carved 
and gilded beech, modern blue silk velvet. Gift of Mr. 
and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1971 (1971.206.11) 

Pedal Harp. French, second half of the eighteenth 
century. Renault et Chatelain (founded 1772). Wood, 
various materials. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1907 

The Music Tutor 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise). Italian, late eighteenth cen- 
tury. Rose and blue silk changeant taffeta with red foil 
and hammered silver buttons and embroidery. Rogers 
Fund, 1925 (26.56.16a-c) 

The Withdrawing Room: A Helpful 

Adjustable Music, Reading, and Writing Stand 
(Pupitre a cremaillere, servant de table). French, 1760- 
65. Attributed to Martin Carlin (ca. 1730-1785). 
Tulipwood, gilt bronze, brass, steel. Purchase, 
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, by 
exchange, 1983 (1983.433a-c) 

Armchair (Fauteuil a la reine). French, ca. 1749. 
Nicolas-Quinibert Foliot (active 1729-76). Carved 
and gilded oak, original velvet and gold braid. 
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1906 (07.225.57) 

The Chaperone 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, third quarter of 
the eighteenth century. Green and ivory serpentine 
silk damask with matching fly- fringe trim. Gift of 
Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, 1943 (CI.43.90.49a, b) 

The Voyeur 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise) . French, ca. 1765-75. 
Chine -patterned silk taffeta. Gift of Federation de 
la Soirie, 1950 (50.168.1a, b) 

Paneling (Boiserie). Austrian, 1769-71, with later 
additions. Carved, painted, and gilded pine. 
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 
1963 (63.229.1) 

Room from the Hotel de Varengeville, Paris 
(ca. 1736-52) 

The Hotel de Varengeville, at 217 boulevard Saint- 
Germain, which is now the Maison de l'Amerique 
Latine, was built in 1704 by the architect Jacques 
Gabriel (1667-1742) for the widowed comtesse de 
Varengeville. In 1732 it was inherited by her daugh- 
ter, who was married to the great military command- 
er Hector-Louis, due de Villars. In 1736 Mme de 
Villars sold the house to Marie-Marguerite d'Allegre, 
comtesse de Ruppelmonde, who owned it until her 
death in 1752. The comtesse de Ruppelmonde proba- 
bly commissioned the paneling. The original room 
had a semicircular end wall pierced by two windows. 
The six carved mirror frames, the panels of the chim- 
neypiece wall, and most of the elements of the other 
three walls are part of the original boiserie. The plaster 
ceiling and cornice are modern, as are the two door- 
frames (the doors are original) and the carved over- 
doors fitted with paintings of Autumn and of Poetry 
by Francois Boucher (1703-1770), which are signed 
and dated 1753. Contemporary with but not original 
to the room are the fleur-de-peche marble chimney- 
piece and the parquet de Versailles floor. 

The Fainter 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). British, 1765-70. Ivory 
silk faille with satin self-stripe and multicolored silk, 
silver file, and hammered silver embroidery with 
hammered silver bobbin-lace trim. Purchase, 
Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1962 (, b) 

Friend 1 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, 1775-89. White, 
pink, and pale blue silk cannele with multicolored 
floral silk brocade and passementerie trim. Purchase, 
Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1961 (CI.61. 13.1a, b) 

Friend 2 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). British, ca. 1775. White 
striped silk cannele with metallic lace trim, white 
cotton Brussels lace, white silk gauze with white 
chenille and fly-fringe trim. Courtesy of the Kyoto 
Costume Institute 

Writing Table (Bureau plat). French, 1759. Gilles 
Joubert (1689-1775). Lacquered oak, gilt bronze, 
modern leather top. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles 
Wrightsman, 1973 (1973.315.1) 


Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, mid-eighteenth 
century. Blue and white striped cloth-of-silver with 
gold tinsel and multicolored floral silk brocade, 
hammered silver bobbin lace and applied silk 
rosette trim. Gift of Federation de la Soirie, 1950 
(50.168.2a, b) 


Dress (Robe d la frangaise). French, mid-eighteenth 
century. Pink silk and pulled thread broken serpen- 
tine motif with floral silk brocade, passementerie trim, 
and silver braid couched by applied gold bobbin-lace. 
Fletcher Fund, 1938 (CI.61.34a, b) 


Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, ca. 1770. Rosy 
beige silk faille with polychrome woven floral bou- 
quets on ivory ground with brocades of floral sprays, 
brown and yellow silk spots, and blue silk berries, 
passementerie trim. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest 
1961 (38.30.1a, b) 


Dress (Robe d la frangaise) . French, mid- eighteenth 
century. Beige silk faille with ivory serpentine floral 
motif and floral spray silk and gold thread brocade, 
with weft-directed serpentine gold lace applique. 
Gift of Mrs. Hervey Parke Clark, 1961 (CI.61. 16a, b) 

Seated Woman 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, third quarter of the 
eighteenth century. Pink faille with ivory lace motif 
and multicolored floral spray silk brocade, ivory silk 
ruched ribbon and passementerie trim, applied silver 
bobbin lace. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1959 
(, b) 

The Masked Beauty 

The Favorite 

Armchair (Bergere). French, ca. 1765. L. Cresson. 
Carved and gilded beech, modern blue green and 
beige silk lampas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles 
Wrightsman, 1971 (1971.206.6) 


Dress (Robe a lafrangaise). French, ca. 1775. Pink 
ribbed silk with white linear silk vine motif and mul- 
ticolored silk floral brocade with multicolored passe- 
menterie and scalloped fly- fringe trim. Purchase, 
Isabel Shults Fund, 2005 (2005.61a, b) 

Rococo Room, French (ca. 1730-35) 

The oak paneling is part of a larger room from an 
unidentified setting. The trophies of the seasons, 
carved on the rounded corner panels, are related to 
drawings by the designer-sculptor Francois -Antoine 
Vasse (1681-1736). 

Dress (Robe a lafrangaise). French or Austrian, 
ca. 1765. Pale blue silk satin with hammered silver 
floral brocade and silver bobbin-lace trim. Purchase, 
Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2001 (2001.472a, b) 

Rococo Room, French (ca. 1730-35) 

The oak paneling is part of a larger room from an 
unidentified setting. The trophies of the seasons, 
carved on the rounded corner panels, are related to 
drawings by the designer-sculptor Francois -Antoine 
Vasse (1681-1736). 

Dress (Robe a lafrangaise). French, 1775-79. Ivory 
striped silk with multicolored floral silk brocade 
and chenille trim. Courtesy of the Kyoto Costume 

Armchair (Fauteuil a la reine). French, 1753. Nicolas- 
Quinibert Foliot (active 1729-76). Carved and gilded 
beech, original Beauvais tapestry woven with bird 
and animal subjects after Jean-Baptiste Oudry 
(1686-1755). Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1935 
(35.145.9). Purchase, Martha Baird Rockefeller Gift, 
1966 (66.60.1) 

The Valet 

Suit. French, mid- to late eighteenth century. Blue 
and cream wool, multicolored "coat of arms" trim- 
mings. Courtesy of Lillian Williams 

Paneling (Boiserie). French, ca. 1735, with later 
additions. Carved, painted, and gilded oak. Purchase, 
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 1963 

Mask Fan. Spanish, mid- to late eighteenth century. 
Pale blue and pink painted paper with ivory. Gift of 
Miss Agnes Miles Carpenter, 1955 (CI.55.43.17) 

Paneling (Boiserie). French, ca. 1730-35, with later 
additions. Carved, painted, and gilded oak. Gift of 
J. Pierpont Morgan, 1966 (07.225.147) 

Paneling (Boiserie). French, ca. 1730-35, with later 
additions. Carved, painted, and gilded oak. Gift of 
J. Pierpont Morgan, 1966 (07.225.147) 

The Sevres Room, French (ca. 1770) 

The oak paneling in this room was acquired by Baron 
Frederic-Jerome Pichon (1812-1896) in the late nine- 
teenth century. The baron, a well-known Parisian 
bibliophile and collector, incorporated the paneling, 
stripped of its original paint, into the large library 
that he installed on the first floor of his Paris resi- 
dence, the Hotel Lauzun, at 17 quai d'Anjou, on the 
lie Saint-Louis. The paneling, which dates from the 
early Louis XVI period, about 1770, was not in keep- 
ing with the seventeenth -century decor of the Hotel 
Lauzun and was dismantled and sold by the baron's 
grandson in 1906-7. The three doorways and the 
pilasters were part of the woodwork installed in the 
library at the Hotel Lauzun. The three grisaille over- 
door paintings in the style of Piat-joseph Sauvage 
(1744-1818), the white marble chimneypiece, and its 
framed overmantel mirror are contemporary with but 
not original to the room. The plaster cornice and ceil- 
ing rosette are modern. 

The Client 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise). American, ca. 1780. Pale 
blue silk with rose and white linear serpentine bro- 
cade and metal paillette embroidery. Rogers Fund, 
1942 (42.105.1a-c) 

Jewel Coffer on Stand (Coffre a bijoux). French, 1770. 
Attributed to Martin Carlin (ca. 1730-1785). Oak 
veneered with tulipwood, amaranth, sycamore, and 
holly, Sevres porcelain plaques, gilt bronze. Most 
plaques with date letter for 1770 and with mark of 
the painter Jean -Jacques Pierre the Younger (active 
1763-92). Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 
1958 (58.75.41) 

The Client's Wife 

Dress (Robe a la polonaise). French, ca. 1780. Hand- 
painted white Chinese silk. Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. 
Alan S. Davis Gift, 1976 (1976.146a, b) 

Small Desk (Bonheur dujour). French, ca. 1775. 
Martin Carlin (ca. 1730-1785). Oak veneered with 
tulipwood, purplewood, and sycamore, Sevres porce- 
lain plaques, gilt bronze. Most plaques with date 
letter for 1774 and with mark of the painter Jean- 
Jacques Pierre the Younger (active 1763-92). Gift of 
the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1958 (58.75.49) 

The Merchant 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise). French, 1775-80. Rose silk 
with multicolored silk, gold file, and paillette embroi- 
dery. Gift of International Business Machines 
Corporation, 1960 ( 

Paneling (Boiserie). Carved oak with modern paint. 
French, ca. 1770. Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Charles 
Wrightsman Gift, 1976 (1976.91.1, 2) 

Room from a Hotel on the Cours d'Albret, 
Bordeaux (ca. 1785) 

The delicate low- relief carving of the pine wall panels 
is attributed to the sculptor and woodcarver 
Barthelemy Cabirol (ca. 1732-1786) and his work- 
shop. Born in Bordeaux, Cabirol is known to have 
undertaken the decoration of many residences in the 
city. He may have been responsible for the interiors 
of the Hotel de Saint- Marc, on the cours d'Albret, 
constructed between 1782 and 1784. The Museum's 
room may have come from this building, which is 
now the Centre Hospitalier Regional de Bordeaux. 
The Carrara marble chimneypiece and the parquet de 
Versailles floor are contemporary with but not original 
to the room. 

The Abbe 

Suit. French, 1775-80. Black silk taffeta. Courtesy of 
Lillian Williams 

Side chair (Voyeuse). French, ca. 1780-90. Attributed 
to Sulpice Brizard (ca. 1735-1798). Carved, painted, 
and gilded beech, modern rose moire wool tabby. 
Gift of Mrs. Ralph K. Robertson, 1969 (69.102.3) 

Female Card Player 1 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, 1775-80. Salmon, 
burgundy, blue and white striped silk cannele with 
self-fabric bouillonne and ruched trim. Purchase, 
Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1960 (, b) 

Armchair (Fauteuil en cabriolet). French, ca. 1785. 
Carved beech, originally gilded, modern green 
brocaded silk. Rogers Fund, 1926 (26.227.1) 

Male Card Player 1 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise). French, 1778-85. Ivory, pale 
pink, and brown silk cannele with multicolored floral 
silk embroidery. Fletcher Fund, 1961 (CI.61.14.2a~c) 

Side Chair (Chaise en cabriolet). French, 1775-80. 
Jean-Baptiste II Lelarge (1743-1802). Carved and 
gilded beech, modern green silk cannele. Rogers 
Fund, 1923 (23.147.2) 

The Late Supper: The Memento 

The Shop: The Obstruction 

Female Card Player 2 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise) . French, 1775-80. Moss 
green, brown, ivory, and pale pinstriped silk taffeta 
with self-fabric bouillonne and ruched trim. Purchase, 
Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1960 (CI.60.39.2a, b) 

Armchair (Fauteuil en cabriolet). French, ca. 1785. 
Pierre Brizard (ca. 1737-1804). Carved, painted, and 
gilded beech, modern rose silk velvet. Rogers Fund, 
1926 (26.227.2) 

Male Card Player 2 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise) . French, late eighteenth 
century. Slate blue and brown ribbed silk, ivory 
silk satin with multicolored chenille and floral silk 
embroidery. Gift of Mrs. Frank A. Zunino Jr., 1966 

Side Chair (Chaise en cabriolet), French, 1775-80. 
Jean-Baptiste III Lelarge (1743-1802). Carved and 
gilded beech, modern green silk cannele. Rogers 
Fund, 1923 (23.147.3) 

Folding Card Table (Table ajouer). French, 
ca. 1755-65. Attributed to Bernard II van Risenburgh 
(1696-1766). Oak veneered with tulipwood, purple- 
wood, kingwood, bois satine, and walnut, gilt bronze 
mounts, modern green felt. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. 
Charles Wrightsman, 1983 (1983.185.3) 

Paneling (Boiserie). French, ca. 1785. Attributed to 
Barthelemy Cabirol (ca. 1732-1786). Carved and 
painted pine. Gift of Mrs. Herbert N. Straus, 1943 

Room from the Hotel de Crillon, Paris 
(ca. 1777-80) 

This oak room came from the Hotel de Crillon, at 
10 place de la Concorde, Paris. It was built between 
1755 and 1775 after designs by the architect Ange- 
Jacques Gabriel (1698-1782). Louis-Marie- Augustin, 
due d'Aumont (1709-1782), a well-known collector 
of the period, lived in the Hotel de Crillon from 1777 
to 1782, and the decoration of the Museum's room 
was probably carried out for him between 1777 and 
1780. The architect Pierre-Adrien Paris (1747-1819) 
designed the decoration of the wall panels, which 
were executed by an unknown artist. 

The Voluptuary 

Dress (Robe a la frangaise). French, late eighteenth 
century. Hand-painted green-and-white woven 
striped silk taffeta. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn 
Bequest, 1954 (CL54.70 a, b) 

Stays. French, late eighteenth century. Cream silk 
with pink silk trim. Courtesy of Lillian Williams 

Garter Ribbon. French, last quarter of the eigh- 
teenth century. Green silk taffeta. Courtesy of 
Lillian Williams 

Daybed (Sultane) and Armchair (Bergere). French, 
1788. Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sene (1748-1803). 
Carved, painted, and gilded walnut, modern green 
silk satin damask. Gift of Ann Payne Blumenthal, 
1941 (41.205.1, .2) 

The Libertine 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise). Italian, 1770-80. Chartreuse 
silk satin with rose and beige silk floral embroidery. 
Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1926 (26.56.63a-c) 

Paneling (Boiserie). French, 1777-80. After designs by 
Pierre-Adrien Paris (1747-1819). Painted and gilded 
oak. Gift of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1944 (44.128) 

Shop Front From lie Saint-Louis, Paris 
(ca. 1775-77) 

The shop front from 3 quai de Bourbon, on the north 
bank of the lie Saint-Louis, Paris, near the Pont 
Marie, was built by Etienne Sejournant between 1775 
and 1777. It was superimposed on the masonry of an 
existing mid -seventeenth- century building and was 
removed from its original site during World War I. 

The Girl in Flight 

Dress (Robe a Yanglaise). European, mid-to-late 
eighteenth century. Ivory silk taffeta. Purchase, 
Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1972 (1972.139.2) 

The Reckless Suitor 

Suit (Habit a la frangaise). European, last quarter of 
the eighteenth century. Black wool with multicolored 
silk floral embroidery. Gift of Mr. Lee Simonson, 1939 


[Page 6] Frangois Boucher (French, 1703-1770). 
Madame de Pompadour, 1756. Oil on canvas. Die Aire 
Pinakothek, Munich. Photograph courtesy of The 
Bridgeman Art Library 

[Page 8] Attributed to Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun (French, 
1755-1842). Marie-Antoinette, ca. 1783. Oil on canvas. 
Timken Collection, National Gallery of Art. Image © 
Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, 
Washington, DC 

[Page 10] Jean-Honore Fragonard (French, 
1732-1806). Detail of The Stolen Kiss, ca. 1786-88. 
Oil on canvas. The State Hermitage Museum, 
St. Petersburg. Photograph courtesy of Erich Lessing / 
Art Resource, NY 

[Page 13] Jean-Honore Fragonard (French, 1732- 
1806). Detail of The Bolt, ca. 1777. Oil on canvas. 
Louvre, Paris. Photograph courtesy of Erich Lessing / 
Art Resource, NY 

[Page 14] Jean-Frangois deTroy (French, 1679-1752). 
Detail of The Reading from Moliere, ca. 1728. Oil on 
canvas. Private Collection. Photograph courtesy of 
The Bridgeman Art Library 

[Page 18] Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (French, 
1741-1814). Le Souperfin, engraved by Isadore- 
Stanislas Helman (French, 1743-1806), from Le 
Monument du costume, 1781. Etching and engraving. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of George 
Blumenthal, 1941 (41.140.7) 

[Page 21] Nicolas Lavreince II (French, 1732-1807). 
Qu'en dit Vabbe?, engraved by Nicolas Delaunay 
(French, 1739-1792), 1788. Etching and engraving. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane 
Dick Fund, 1954 (54.533.17) 

[Page 24] Adelaide Labille-Guiard (French, 1749- 
1803). Self -Portrait with Two Pupils, Mademoiselle 
Marie Gabrielle Capet (1761-1818) and Mademoiselle 
Carreaux de Rosemond (d. 1788), 1785. Oil on canvas. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Julia A. 
Berwind, 1953 (53.225.5) 

[Page 27] Louis-Michel van Loo (French, 1707-1771). 
Denis Diderot, 1767. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris. 
Photograph courtesy of Erich Lessing / Art Resource, 

[Page 34] Louis-Roland Trinquesse (French, ca. 
1746-1800). Detail of Interior Scene with Two Women 
and a Gentleman, 1776. Oil on canvas. Maurice 
Segoura Collection 

[Page 37] Francois Boucher (French, 1703-1770). 
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, 
1758. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Fogg Art 
Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Bequest 
of Charles E. Dunlap, 1966.47. Photograph by Katya 
Kallsen. Image © 2004 President and Fellows of 
Harvard College 

[Page 44] Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (French, 
1741-1814). L Accord parfait, engraved by Isadore- 
Stanislas Helman (French, 1743-1806), from Le 
Monument du costume, 1777. Etching and engraving. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane 
Dick Fund, 1933 (33.6.21) 

[Page 47] Rose Adelaide Ducreux (French, 1761- 
1802). Self-Portrait with a Harp, ca. 1790. Oil on 
canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest 
of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1966 (67,55.1) 

[Page 58] Augustin de Saint-Aubin (French, 
1736-1807). Detail of Le Bal pare, etched by Antoine- 
Jean Duclos (French, 1742-1795), 1774. Etching. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane 
Dick Fund, 1933 (33.56.33) 

[Page 61] Frangois Boucher (French, 1703-1770). 
Madame de Pompadour, 1759. Oil on canvas. The 
Wallace Collection, London. Photograph courtesy 
of The Bridgeman Art Library 

[Page 76] Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (French, 
1741-1814). Les Adieux, engraved by Robert Delaunay 
(French, 1749-1814), from Le Monument du costume, 
1777. Etching and engraving. The Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1934 

[Page 79] Charles Nicolas Cochin II (French, 1715- 
1790). Detail of Masked Ball (Bal des Ifs) in honour of 
the marriage of Louis, the Dauphin of France, to Maria 
Theresa of Spain at Versailles (Galerie des Glaces) on 
February 1745. Pen and brown ink with watercolor 
and white heightening. Louvre, Paris. Photograph by 
M. Bellot courtesy of Reunion des Musees Nationaux 
/ Art Resource, NY 

[Page 82] Hyacinthe Rigaud (French, 1659-1743). 
Louis XV (1710-1774) as a Child, ca. 1715-24. Oil on 
canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, 
Mary Wetmore Shively Bequest, in memory of her 
husband, Henry L. Shively, M.D., 1960 (60.6) 

[Page 85] Francois-Hubert Drouais (French, 
1727-1775). Marie-Jeanne Becu, Madame du Barry, 
ca. 1770. Oil on canvas. Timken Collection, National 
Gallery of Art. Image © Board of Trustees, National 
Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 

[Page 88] Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721). 
Detail of Gersainfs Shop Sign, 1720. Oil on canvas. 
Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin. Stiftung Preufiische 
Schlosser und Garten Berlin-Brandenburg/Fotograf 

[Page 91] Michel Gamier (French, 1753-1819). 
The Poorly Defended Rose, 1789. Oil on canvas. 
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Mr. and 
Mrs. Jack Linsky 

[Page 98] Pierre Louis Dumesnil le Jeune (French, 
1698-1781). Detail of Interior with Card Players, 
ca. 1750-60. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, Bequest of Harry G. Sperling, 1971 

[Page 101] Jean -Michel Moreau le Jeune (French, 
1741-1814). La Partie de whist, engraved by Jean 
Dambrun (French, 1741-after 1808), from Le 
Monument du costume, 1788. Etching and engraving. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane 
Dick Fund, 1933 (33.6.12) 

[Page 108] Jean-Frangois de Troy (French, 
1679-1752). The Garter, 1724. Oil on 
canvas. Private Collection, New York 

[Page 111] Jean-Frangois deTroy (French, 
1679-1752). The Declaration of Love, 1724. 
Oil on canvas. Private Collection, New York 

[Page 124] Jean-Honore Fragonard (French, 
1732-1806). Young Woman Reading, ca. 1780. Oil on 
canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of 
Rene Fribourg, 1953 (53.161) 

[Page 126] Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (French, 
1741-1814). N'Ayez pas peur ma bonne amie, engraved 
by Isadore-Stanislas Helman (French, 1743-1806), 
from Le Monument du costume, 1776. Etching and 
engraving. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris 
Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933 (33.6.19) 

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Craveri, Benedetta. The Age of Conversation. Translated 
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We are grateful to the many people who provided generous support for the exhibition "Dangerous 
Liaisons" and this handsome publication. In particular we are fortunate to have had the advice and 
encouragement of Philippe de Montebello, director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Emily K. 
Rafferty, president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Nina McN. Diefenbach, vice president for 
Development and Membership; Ian Wardropper, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman, European 
Sculpture and Decorative Arts; Danielle O. Kisluk-Grosheide, curator, European Sculpture and 
Decorative Arts; Mrs. Charles Wrightsman; Anna Wintour, editor in chief of American Vogue; and 
Asprey of London, who generously donated funds to the exhibition and this catalogue. We also 
thank Conde Nast for providing additional support for both projects. 

Patrick Kinmonth, creative consultant, was responsible for staging the room vignettes that made 
the exhibition such a success and this book so striking. He was assisted by Josephine Pickett Baker, 
Chris Redman, Alison Walker, and Campbell Young. 

Our colleagues in The Costume Institute have been invaluable in every aspect. We extend our 
deepest gratitude to Torrey Thomas Acri, Gail Anderson, Nick Barberio, Shannon Bell Price, Kitty 
Benton, Barbara Brickman, Elizabeth Bryan, Jane Butler, Beth Dincuff Charleston, Dina Cohen, 
Elyssa Da Cruz, Michael Downer, Andrew Drabkin, Jamilla Dunn, Eileen Ekstract, Lisa Faibish, 
Joyce Fung, Susan Furlaud, Jessica Glasscock, Charles Hansen, Stephane Houy-Towner, Elizabeth 
Hyman, Betsy Kallop, Elizabeth Arpel Kehler, Susan Klein, Jessa Krick, Elizabeth Larson, Susan 
Lauren, Nina Libin, Joan Lufrano, Rena Lustberg, Melissa Marra, Bethany Matia, Veronica McNiff, 
Butzi Moffitt, Elizabeth Monks, Marci Morimoto, Doris Nathanson, Ellen Needham, Wendy Nolan, 
Julia Orron, Tatyana Pakhladzhyan, Christine Paulocik, Pat Peterson, Christine Petschek, Janina 
Poskrobko, Martin Price, Jan Reeder, Jessica Regan, Laurie Riley, Christine Ritschel, Eleanor Schloss, 
Lita Semerad, Rebecca Shea, Nancy Silbert, Katherine Smith, Judith Sommer, Heather Vaughn, 
Stacey N. Wacknov, Muriel Washer, Bernice Weinblatt, DJ White, the Visiting Committee, and the 
Friends of The Costume Institute. 

Members of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts contributed generously 
of their time and knowledge, and we are indebted to Shirley Allison, Miro T. Bullo, Thomas P. 
Campbell, Vanessa Davidson, James David Draper, Patricia Flores, Cybele Gontar, Roger Haapala, 
Marva Harvey, Johanna Hecht, Robert Kaufmann, Lorraine Karafel, Wolfram Koeppe, William Kopp, 
Jessie McNab, Jeffrey Munger, Marina Nudel, Stephanie Post, Eric Peluso, Erin E. Pick, William 
Rieder, Clare Vincent, Melinda Watt, and Rose Whitehill. 

We are also grateful to members of the Textile Conservation staff, including Cristina Carr, 
Kathrin Colburn, Emilia Cortes, Min-Sun Hwang, Kristine Kamiya, Maya Naunton, Elena Phipps, 
Midori Sato, and Florica Zaharia. 

Photographers Joseph Coscia Jr. and Oi-Cheong Lee, of the Photograph Studio of The 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, are to be commended for their successful translation of the vignettes 
into photographs that enhance the pages of this volume. 

The Editorial Department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, under the guidance of John P. 
O'Neill, editor in chief, provided the expertise to make this book a reality. Special thanks go to 

Margaret R. Chace, Joan Holt, Gwen Roginsky, and Paula Torres. The design was carried out in 
extraordinary fashion by Takaaki Matsumoto, assisted by Amy Wilkins, Keith Price, and Hisami Aoki. 

We would also like to thank colleagues from various departments at The Metropolitan Museum 
of Art for their assistance, including Rosayn D. Anderson, Katharine Baetjer, Kay Bearman, Pamela 
T. Barr, Renee Barrick, Mechthild Baumeister, Christine S. Begley, Eti Bonn-Muller, Barbara Bridgers, 
Nancy C. Britton, Eugenia Burnett Tinsley, Cindy Caplan, Andrew Caputo, Jennie Choi, Aileen K. 
Chuk, Michael Cocherell, Clint Coller, Sharon H. Cott, Teresa Christiansen, Deanna Cross, Willa M. 
Cox, Jeffrey Daly, Jennifer Dodge, Marian Eines, Priscilla F. Farah, Catherine Fukashimi, Helen 
Garfield, Patricia Gilkison, Claire Gylphe, Herbert Heyde, Harold Holzer, Catherine Jenkins, Michael 
Jenkins, Marilyn Jensen, Andrea Kann, Phyllis Keilson, Anna-Marie Kellen, Beth Kovalsky, Bernice 
Kwok-Gabel, Alexandra Klein, Michael Langley, Kerstin Larsen, Laurence Libin, Richard Lichte, 
Thomas Ling, Amanda Maloney, Kristin M. MacDonald, Nina S. Maruca, Missy McHugh, 
Constance McPhee, Susan Melick Bresnan, Taylor Miller, J. Kenneth Moore, Mark Morosse, Herbert 
M. Moskowitz, Rebecca L. Murray, Nadine Orenstein, Sally Pearson, Joseph Peknik III, Blanche 
Perris Kahn, Diana Pitt, Doralynn Pines, Stewart S. Pollens, Lucinda K. Ross, Nancy Rutledge, 
Christine Scornavacca, Kenneth Soehner, Linda Sylling, Elyse Topalian, Valerie Troyansky, Philip T. 
Venturino, Barbara Weiss, Karin L. Willis, Deborah Winshel, Heather Woodworth, Steve Zane, and 
Elizabeth Zanis. 

We are extremely grateful to the lenders to the exhibition not only for their loans to the show but 
also for allowing us to reproduce their costumes on the following pages. Our thanks go to: Colonial 
Williamsburg Foundation, the Costume Design Center (Brenda Rosseau), Colonial Williamsburg 
Foundation, the Shoemaking Program Qames Gaynor, Al Saguto), John England (Textiles) Ltd, the 
Kyoto Costume Institute (Akiko Fukai, Jun Kanai, Tamami Suoh, Rie Nii), Pennsylvania State 
University Library (Sandra Stelts), Frederick P. Victoria & Sons, Inc. (Anthony G. Victoria), and 
Lillian Williams. 

Special thanks are due to Oriole Cullen, David Vincent, and Charlotte Crosby Nicklas.